"Whatever you've seen, you've never seen nothing like this," the contractor, Martin Fernandez, says in the video that was posted on multiple news sites. Fernandez never mentioned the actual address, saying only that the building was on the Lower East Side. However, the First Avenue location of the Bean is visible in one of the scenes, causing several readers who shared this video to think this building was in the East Village.
An EVG reader, who lives in the building where this took place, shared the following letter to provide more background on what transpired ...
I live in the building in which this now-former tenant’s apartment is located. First, I can confirm that the apartment was definitely not staged, and that it is, indeed, in the East Village.
I must admit, as awful as it has been over the past couple of years living in the building where this person lived (though I and that tenant have each lived there for about 15 years), it’s a bit painful to see this described simply as the situation of a “hoarder.” That’s not at all to criticize EV Grieve, because I’m sure that is the only context in which it was presented to him. I just hope to add a little context before too many people comment without, understandably, knowing more about the situation.
As Martin, the contractor, noted, the tenant was not always living this way. We are a pretty closely knit bunch in this building, due to our occasional battles with our landlord ... and while most of us weren’t close friends with the tenant, we knew him for many years as maybe a bit eccentric (as most of us living here could probably be described as well), but as a good neighbor and not someone anyone would imagine ending up in this kind of situation.
Sadly, over the past two years, we all witnessed his mental and physical health decline for reasons that should remain private. We tried, individually and as a group, to intervene, but it quickly became clear here was not willing or able to accept our offers to help, which was frustrating both because of the declining conditions in the building, and because it is painful to watch someone go through what he was going through.
Let me be clear: it’s been pretty hellish living here for the last couple of years. While none of us had seen the full extent of the decay in his apartment until now, we have all been dealing with the effects. Those roaches invaded every apartment in the building and, while not nearly as numerous as they were in his, it’s been nearly impossible for any of us to cook or keep food for over a year now, and it’s a very defeating feeling to know that no matter how much one cleans, there will always be more roaches arriving from the source. Living in an old tenement building, we’ve certainly learned to expect the occasional rodent or critter of some sort, but this was clearly on a scale that made the building next to unlivable.
As I mentioned, we’ve been through battles with our landlord over the past couple of years (and came out on top thus far, thankfully), and he was well aware of the situation. While I’d love to blame him for not addressing the issue, I do know that he attempted to do so, sending multiple exterminators upon our request over the past couple years, all of whom left when the tenant cursed at them and would not let them into his apartment.
As I understand it, the landlord bought out his lease nearly a year ago, but he did not leave after accepting the buyout. Eviction proceedings followed.
It was a difficult situation for everyone, because clearly the tenant’s living situation was a threat to his own health and that of everyone in the building, and we certainly knew this couldn’t continue. On the other hand, we were conscious of his poor health and limited resources, and I don’t believe anyone wanted him end up living on the street. The courts apparently agreed, as they stayed his eviction for many months due to his health. And so, at something of a stalemate with our desire for a decent place to live and our consciences, the situation dragged on.
Last week, he was finally evicted and, as I understand it, he has moved into another building in the neighborhood, where I can’t imagine he or his new neighbors will be any better off than we were.
As for our building, as you can see, contractors immediately moved in to attempt to clean out his apartment, and clearly it is not a pleasant task. And it will surely be some time before we can fully eradicate the roaches from the building – though we will certainly hold our landlord to doing so as quickly as possible.
This video and the images of the apartment are out there now, and as we all know there’s no way of retracting them. And I don’t blame people for sharing them now that they’ve become public – I understand there’s a natural fascination with these kinds of graphic images, particularly in a city where we all may wonder from time to time what lies behind our neighbors’ doors. But wonder as we may, we do not generally step through those doors uninvited.
Our former neighbor never gave consent for his very private struggle to be held up to public view and inevitable ridicule, and it’s disappointing and saddening to me that Martin felt the need to offer them to the press. What purpose could it serve? The fact that he has left comments on the article at several news outlets asking people to subscribe to his YouTube channel and promising additional videos may provide the answer. Or perhaps he genuinely felt the need share an experience that he found traumatic as his own way of coping.
Whatever the case, I sincerely hope that he will reconsider posting whatever additional videos/photos he may have. And if he cannot resist doing so, I hope that this backstory will at least allow those who read it to view those images through the lens that we, his neighbors, have viewed them: certainly with disgust at the conditions, but also with an understanding that what we are witnessing is a glimpse into the very personal struggles of a person who, just a few years ago, was laughing with us at parties and showing off, with great pride, the furniture he custom built in his apartment.
For now, I can hope for nothing more than that he gets the help he needs and deserves, that we get to return to the decent living conditions we deserve, and that his new neighbors somehow avoid experiencing what we have endured over these past couple of years. And I hope that if our old neighbor is reading this, he knows that despite our frustrations with him over the years, we know his life is more than the images coming out of his apartment, and we wish him health and happier days ahead.