NYC's Ten Worst Tenants

We hope you don't live next to these people

NYC's Ten Worst Tenants
Photo illustration by Jon Valk

We know the trouble and misery that landlords can cause New Yorkers. Just take a look at our franchise "10 Worst Landlords" lists (see part 1 and part 2), the latest of which we unveiled last year.

But there are also plenty of bad tenants in New York City.

We're not talking about frustrated people who cause trouble for bad landlords. Nor are we talking about especially obnoxious or run-of-the-mill slovenly renters who make their neighbors' lives seem like Hell. In the following list, we focus on tenants who have caused serious misery for other tenants or housemates or building supers or the landlords who aren't slumlords. These bad tenants have stolen peace and quiet, sanity, and money from other tenants and often the general public. In some cases, they've done more than hassle or rip off others—they're accused of killing them.

Beauty (1 Christopher Street) and the beastly apartment (below).
Harry Seward
Beauty (1 Christopher Street) and the beastly apartment (below).
Courtesy Fox 5

This list is heavy with people who live in public housing or otherwise receive housing subsidies. But we're not picking on poor people. The reason for the seeming imbalance is that there are branches of the city's Department of Investigation and the Housing Authority that police the theft of government housing funds. Public-housing tenants are generally under much more scrutiny than renters who get no subsidies.

City employees also heavily populate our list. One reason is that they, too, are also more susceptible to being caught doing crooked things because investigators can track their pay stubs and other financial information more easily than they can investigate people who work in the private sector.

In other words, there are many other really bad tenants in the city whom we don't know about. We hope you're not one of them.

Most of all, we hope you haven't been victimized by the likes of the following people. Here's our list, in no particular order:

The Hoarder

Landlord Jimmy Silber's lovely 16-story building at 1 Christopher Street, in the West Village, has been in his family since 1932. By some accounts, he's a good landlord and the building of about 100 units was immaculate—until November 2003, when Dolores Miller moved in with a woman already living there. Then, the original tenant, Joan Walsh, developed dementia and wound up in a nursing home. Miller stayed.

She overstayed.

Known for dressing like a schoolteacher, her own house was in disorder. She hoarded furniture and clothes, but that was her business. She also hoarded food—huge amounts of spoiled, rotten food—and that became everybody's business.

The one-bedroom apartment on the third floor became a horror—maybe not for her but for everyone else, especially her next-door neighbors. Katie Axelrod, a 27-year-old who works in Web marketing, lived next to Miller for three very long years. "The odors were terrible," she says. "There were literally insects—fruit flies—crawling out from under her door. It was an ongoing nightmare. I didn't want to have friends over."

Axelrod says she stayed in the building because she liked the landlord, Silber, and thought he was doing everything he could to help. Nevertheless, she says, she had to hold a shirt over her nose every time she passed Miller's door.

Another next-door neighbor, Jeff Guarino, 39, who works in insurance sales, says a black, sooty substance started creepy-crawling on the outside of Miller's door. Silber described it as green slime. In any case, it was a horror movie.

After a year of Miller's solo housekeeping, tenants say, the place smelled like a toxic garbage dump. The odors wafted through the hallways, and Miller's neighbors taped their own doors to try to keep the smell out of their apartments. Some of them say they even resorted to staying away from their homes in the otherwise beloved building.

This past March, after a drawn-out court battle that Silber says lasted seven years and cost him more than $100,000 for legal fees and garbage removal, Miller was evicted by city marshals. The landlord says that when he opened the door to the apartment, a cloud of fruit flies hurtled toward his head.

Miller had fought hard to remain in the building, even claiming that she and Walsh were lovers and that she was entitled to stay because she was Walsh's domestic partner.

Fox 5's Barbara Nevins Taylor detailed her case in amazing detail—including footage of the apartment. As to Miller's claim that she was Walsh's lover, even the Advocate, which always stands up for gay rights, wasn't convinced.

Silber has always contended that Miller's claim of being Walsh's lover and domestic partner was merely a ploy to remain in the building.

After the eviction, Fox 5 confronted Miller, asking her about the incredible mess in the apartment. She replied that living with obsessive-compulsive disorder was difficult.

Miller wound up in a homeless shelter, according to news reports.

Right after the eviction, Guarino says, he peeked into Miller's apartment and got an unforgettable eyeful. Both he and Silber say the place was jammed floor-to-ceiling with garbage, among other hoarded objects. There were drawers full of rotting sandwiches. Fox 5 noted that there were bags of cat litter and every can of food that Miller had ever opened. It was a fetid disaster worse than any restaurant dumpster.

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