Activists plan to rally at noon on Saturday outside controversial hotelier Hank Freid‘s Broadway Studios on the Upper West Side to “denounce the continued operation of illegal hotels” by “scamlords” citywide.
“We are targeting Hank Freid as an egregious illegal hotelier … with a particularly insidious past,” organizer Yarrow Willman-Cole told The Observer.
Mr. Freid earned the dubious distinction as one of New York City’s “Worst Landlords” after contracting with the government to provide housing for homeless persons living with HIV/AIDS at his hotels amid hard economic times, then evicting those tenants to make way for upcale renovations once the economy rebounded.
In a prior interview with The Observer, Mr. Freid expressed frustration about how the neighborhood responded with anger both when he brought the AIDS patients in and then again when he booted them out.
“It’s very ironic that, no matter what you did in that particular situation, they were so strong against it,” Mr. Freid said. “Originally, when I brought this into the community, they were against it. Then, when I looked to take it out of the community, they were against that.
“I was only trying to help, and it backfired on me,” he added. “So I went the other way.”
Activists counter that Mr. Freid raked in millions of dollars from his participation in the government housing program but gave little back. “Instead of putting the money into making his buildings safe, clean and secure, he let the buildings crumble,” according to a press release. “When the contract with [the city] was terminated, he began building his chain of flashy ‘budget chic’ hotels in single room occupacy (SRO) residential buildings! Hank Freid has scammed the New York City housing system for too long. Tenants are fed up, and they want the City to act now!”
Activists are lobbying city officials to pass a bill to crack down on illegal hotel conversions.