NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Residents of a Queens condo building claim they’re being terrorized by a property manager who they said has turned their lobby into a tribute to hate.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer led a rally for change outside the Sunnyside building where the property manager is accused of putting up posters of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, guns and other images.
Van Bramer said when tenants complain they are threatened, harassed and even fined, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
“This lobby represents one giant hate crime, this lobby is a hate crime,” Van Bramer said. “You cannot walk away from spending a minute in this lobby without being horrified and disgusted about what’s happening here. This is illegal.”
A crucifix hangs over the doorway and two 10-foot tall statues of Uncle Sam stand outside the entrance to 47-55 39th Place, but Van Bramer said there’s nothing patriotic about what’s inside the building.
“There’s nothing patriotic about having a large swastika over one of the apartments on the first floor of this building, there’s nothing patriotic about having racist Jim Crow images mocking African Americans,” Van Bramer said.
There’s a giant swastika tacked to the wall over a door, next to photos of Robert E. Lee and Jim Crow, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported. The images appear in a display that also includes photos and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President George Washington.
“I think it’s terrible, particularly in a neighborhood like Sunnyside where you have the whole world wrapped up in one community,” Joel Thomas said.
One couple said they wouldn’t complain out of fear of not having their lease removed.
“They were fearful because that had already happened to friends of theirs, people who complained about the giant image of a gun that is right above the elevator,” Van Bramer said.
Residents say property manager and board president Neil Milano is responsible. They say Milano put up a 9/11 memorial several years ago but recently symbols of hate have taken over the lobby.
Tenants said Milano operates like the dictators who grace the lobby walls.
“My mom visited me once, and this guy charged me $200,” CeeCee HaiLai said.
Letters slipped under every door detail infractions including the names of tenants involved and the resulting fines for things like, “an Asian male visitor slept over more than 20 times from July to January.”
The building is owned by its residents like Lynne Calvacca, who said Milano claims to be the only board member, acting unilaterally to create an environment of fear.
“There are no other board members that I know of of,” Calvacca said. “This is his message to say, ‘You know what, don’t fool around with me cause I own this building.’ And I don’t mean financially, he owns with the terror that he’s inflicting upon people.”
“He runs the entire board meeting and everyone does what he wants. Nobody argues with him. The last time somebody argued with him he sprayed mace in their face, or slashed their tires,” she added.
A lawsuit has been filed against the condo board and Milano.
The NYPD’s Hate Crime Unit has been notified, D’Auria reported.
“The issue is the people living under a threat of terrorism by one individual who the police department and certainly the attorney general has authority to take action. He has to be removed,” said Michael Nussbaum, president of the Queens Jewish Community Council. “He’s terrorizing this community, no less than what other people have done around the world, whether it be the Middle East or whether it be the marchers in Charlottesville.”
Milano is currently out of the country, but his attorney said the murals were approved by the board, however no one in the building seems to know who those board members are.. His lawyer told the New York Post that the posters are patriotic and historical.
Community leaders said they’re working with the NYPD in hopes of resolving the issue.