Monday, January 9, 2012

RIP Andrew Kowalczyk: The last East Village landlord of his kind?

This past weekend, we learned that Andrew Kowalczyk died. He was 53. Police found his body in his first-floor apartment of the building he owned at 197 E. Seventh St. One source said police believe that he may have fallen and hit his head. Police discovered his body last Wednesday. We understand that he bought the building in 1990 for $300,000.

The landlord who actually lives in and serves as the super of his own building seems like a rarity these days.

One of Kowalczyk's longtime tenant's wrote the following In Memoriam...

I am writing today to let you know about the passing of an era. The passing of a native East Village landlord. The kind they don’t make anymore. His name was Andrew Kowalczyk and he owned the walk-up with the blue fire escape on East 7th Street where I have lived for two decades.

You have probably seen the stoop in the documentary about 7th Street, "The Godfather II" or about a zillion Law and Orders. It was Andrew’s stoop and everyone on the block sat on it, because he never minded.

Andrew passed away [last] week in his apartment in his building on East 7th Street that has been a safe port in the storm for so many of us over the years. Andrew hung out at Doc Holliday's and probably a couple of other local places I don’t know about.

Andrew wasn’t a rich guy. He could have hiked the rents every time an apartment changed hands but he didn’t. He rented to us when no one else would because we were bartenders. We made all cash and ... had no credit rating. A friend recommended us and that was good enough for him. “I just want local people we know,” he would say whenever an apartment came up and we would get another friend in there.

He worked brutal hours translating updates into Ukrainian and Russian at the UN in times of crisis, and there was always a crisis somewhere in the world. The job was hard on him, he used to tell me on the stoop late at night after I got out of work. “So much suffering,” he told me once.

Here are a couple examples of Andrew's big heart and sense of decency:

• When we first moved in, there was an elderly woman who would leave her meals-on-wheels in front of her door because she thought they were trying to poison her. Andrew explained to us that he had promised her son, who had died of AIDS, that he would never kick the mother out. He then arranged for Social Services to clean her place and get her a home-care worker. She’s still there, by the way, and still has her home-care workers.

• After some local break-ins, he showed up with the locksmiths to install window gates on the top-floor apartments. We were young and stupid and didn’t want them to block our great views, but he insisted he wanted us (we were all young women on the top floor) to be safe. They were the expensive, nice-looking kind — and he paid for everything.

• In 2000 ... when I finally found another bar job, I was way behind on my rent. “Just pay me until you catch up,” he said. I slipped envelopes of cash under his door with a handwritten tally of the balance until the strike ended and I finally caught up. No receipts, just a trust system.

I remember one late night, as I got home from work, Andrew was on the stoop and was visibly upset. A friend of his, Allan Dell, the owner of Hogs & Heifers, had just died suddenly. Andrew told me there wouldn’t be another man like him and that we lost a great guy. Right back atcha Andrew.

RIP Andrew Kowalczyk.


This morning, his family will greet friends at Duchynski-Cherko Funeral Home in Yonkers from 9:30-10:30 followed by Divine Liturgy at St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church at 11 a.m. Interment will then follow at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

As the resident said, "if you want to leave a candle or note on the stoop, I think his family would get them and Andrew would have liked that."

Unfortunately, none of us could track done a photo of Andrew. Please let us know if you have one that you will share...


Melanie said...

RIP..such kindness and compassion!!Old Timey Values. This piece is very moving..tears are falling.

Marty Wombacher said...

A big loss for that building, the block and NYC. R.I.P. Andrew Kowalczk.

Goggla said...

This is so sad to hear. My condolences to Andrew's family, friends and tenants. He sounds like a really decent person and a big loss for the community.

Spike said...

Wow. Wish I had known him. RIP.

Anonymous said...

We miss you Andrew. People who lived in 197 are reaching out from Queens, Brooklyn, NJ, Harlem, California and even Canada.You were shy so we have no pictures, but we will always remember you.

Hey19 said...

The angle and composition of that photo of the stoop makes me think there should be some passed out girl in short shorts lying on the second step.

Katherine said...


I live on the block and used to see him often. He was very shy. It took about a year, or more, of me saying "Hello" before he would say Hi back. I feel as if I saw him pretty recently. This fall I spoke to him a bit about the hawk in the park--such a source of wonder.

There used to be an image of him--blurry and on his building's front stoop-- in Google Maps, but now it is gone.

Mary said...

I grew up with Andrew in Yonkers. His family lived across the street from us. My brother was friends with him. He would come into our grocery store, always with a smile.. Andrew was very intelligent, studied hard and, as my brother would say, he could build or figure out how to build just about anything. I remember the go-carts they built out of milk crates, wood, baby carriage and bicycle parts.. and the forts lol. We grow up and time has a way of separating people. Thankyou to the person that posted this memorial piece. It's really wonderful to know that Andrew grew up to be such a compassionate and good hearted person. My brother and another good childhood friend of Andrew's have both passed and I am finding comfort that they have met in heaven and are building go carts and forts for the angels..