August 29, by Nathaly Pesantez
The NYC Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) announced today that they have launched an investigation into tenant harassment and discrimination at the Sunnyside condo building known for its elaborate lobby decor that includes images of Hitler and the Confederacy and allegations of harassment against its property manager.
The Human Rights Commission was joined by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and members from the mayor’s office in the plaza under the 46 St station in Sunnyside for the announcement, blocks away from the building at 47-55 39th Place.
Hollis Pfitsch from the Human Rights Commission said the investigation was prompted by the Nazi and Confederate symbols on display in the lobby coupled with an alleged “pattern of threatening and harassing behavior” on behalf of Neal Milano, the property manager of the building, toward residents.
The CCHR also said that the investigation is currently in its interviewing phase, where it will attempt to gather more information from tenants and look for people to step forward and file formal complaints regarding tenant harassment and discrimination within the Sunnyside building with their office.
Part of the commission’s investigation will determine if and how the images in the lobby have been used in connection to the alleged behavior of Milano toward tenants, Pfitsch said.
“Those acts, the images and the harassment, are clearly acts of hatred and meant to intimidate the people of the building,” Van Bramer said at the event. “We reject what he has done in that building.”
Van Bramer relayed to reporters at the event the conversations he had with tenants of the building, who allege that Milano has subjected them to hefty, arbitrary fines, and who allegedly have had to endure intrusive notices shared around the building about their personal lives.
The Human Rights Commission also announced a “Day of Action”, where flyers would be handed out across Sunnyside today with information on tenants’ rights and what to do if one is experiencing harassment or discrimination by their landlord.
The investigation follows a lawsuit filed in April by Lynn Calvacca, an owner of a condo in the Sunnyside building, against the condo board, with a particular focus on Neal Milano as the alleged “instigator” of the list of allegations in the suit.
If the CCHR investigation discovers and substantiates any criminal allegations against Milano, he could potentially face arrest, Van Bramer said.
Pfitsch added that if civil penalties are issued, the office can recover emotional distress damages to victims, and can fine violators with up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations of the law.
Since news of the lobby and allegations of harassment against Milano broke, the World War II banner showing an image of Hitler was taken down by an activist, according to DNA Info.