In the rain on Tuesday evening, members of Tenants Taking Control, a coalition of residents from buildings formerly owned by Raphael Toledano, along with the Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir and the Cooper Square Committee, held a march and vigil to urge Madison Realty Capital (MRC) to end their pursuit of nearly $250,000 in legal fees from the SmithStone family.
The congregation of activists, clergy, and community members assembled on Union Square and later marched to 24th Street, where the group held a candlelight vigil outside the apartment of MRC’s co-founder and managing principal Josh Zegen, urging him to release the family from the responsibility of paying the corporation's legal fees.
Here's background on the situation via the Cooper Square Committee:
In October 2003, the SmithStone family moved into an apartment at 233 E. Fifth St. They opened the nonprofit Phoenix Theatre Ensemble a year later. Their theatre offers a full season of performances as well as lessons in theatre to aspiring actors, seniors and kids in local public schools.
Their building was purchased by Raphael Toledano in 2015, with a loan from Madison Realty Capital. The fledgling landlord asserted that the family’s apartment had lost its rent-stabilized status in 2003 and sued to retake possession of the unit, but the family opposed Toledano’s claim, arguing that the apartment was rent stabilized. The legal battle lasted 34 months. In the midst of it, Toledano defaulted on his loan. Madison Realty Capital reclaimed the properties as de-facto landlord and continued prosecuting the lawsuit.
In June 2018, the Appellate Division of NY State Supreme Court ruled against the family, and Madison Realty Capital immediately began eviction proceedings. Due to a clause in their lease, the SmithStones are now being held accountable by Madison's lawyers for Toledano/Madison Realty Capital's legal fees, amounting to about $250,000. As dedicated artists and educators with 3 college-age children, these fees would be disastrous to the family.
Here are a few scenes from Tuesday's march and vigil...
This is the second SmithStone rally for the group. On Aug. 23, Tenants Taking Control, supporters of the family and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein also gathered outside Zegen’s home, calling on Madison to drop their pursuit of the legal fees.
The court date to decide whether the family is subject to these fines was adjourned until early November.
Photos via the Cooper Square Committee.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Petition asks Madison Realty Capital to waive legal fees for evicted East Village family
Report: Raphael Toledano files for Chapter 11; $145 million deal for EV portfolio is off the table
Raphael Toledano tenants take to Midtown streets to speak out against their landlord and his lenders
Santa delivers sacks of coal to Madison Realty Capital, Rafael Toledano's lenders
Amid claims of being a rent-stabilized tenant, Raphael Toledano faces eviction from his home