544 E. 13th St. near Avenue B is one of the 11 formerly abandoned East Village buildings that the city sold to tenants for a $1 via a deal brokered by the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) in 2002. Under the terms of the deal, the tenants were to bring the buildings up to code.
However, as The Villager reported in October 2015, the conversions of No. 544 as well as 377 E. 10th St. between Avenue B and Avenue C were stalled. The city reportedly chipped in $1.78 million for the renovation work.
Under the terms of the UHAB deal, the original homesteaders are given the chance to buy apartments at a low price, "but have to earn no more than $53,450 a year and the home must be a primary residence, according to the city," as the Post reported on Sunday.
No. 544 has reportedly been the site on an ongoing feud between two factions, "one of them led by Isabel Celeste Dawson, the mother of actress Rosario Dawson, who grew up in the building," per the 2015 Villager article. At the time, members of the Dawson family, Isabel, her brother Nicky Scott, Isabel’s ex-husband Greg Dawson, and son Clay were in line for four units in the renovated building. (The Dawsons arrived at the building in 1986.)
On Sunday, the Post reported that the four members of the Dawson family along with a longtime friend will be getting the homes, which doesn't sit well with some of the other original homesteaders who point out that Rosario Dawson has an estimated worth of $16 million.
Per the Post:
“She’s supportive of her parents. I don’t understand why she hasn’t acquired housing for them elsewhere so these units could be for New Yorkers in need,” said Annie Wilson, one of the building’s founding homesteaders.
Another resident chafed, “This is low-income housing. They’re not supposed to be profiting from anything to do with it.”
Adam Leitman Bailey, a lawyer who represents the Dawsons and some of the other residents, said he had reviewed tax returns for all of the residents and they qualified to buy the apartments.
“I can guarantee you that none of them are wealthy,” he said.
The Post piece has a lot more of the accusations and sordid details. You can read the whole piece here. Ditto for the 2015 Villager article here.