Kirby Sommers, President
Cornfeld Tenants Association

When I had a near fatal accident in the lobby of my apartment building that could have been prevented had my landlord, Arthur Cornfeld, used simple orange cones while renovations were underway, I realized if I wanted someone to eradicate preventable accidents that someone would have to be me.

After emailing an “accident report” to their office and getting zero response (or sympathy for that matter) it dawned on me: ‘We’re in need of a Tenants' Association and we need one now.’

I sought out my neighbors, even when I was still in serious pain and semi-limping, to see if they too had problems. Everyone had a horrible experience to share. A few talked about mushrooms growing out of their bathroom ceilings. Someone said her bedroom ceiling had caved in. Another person had just been burglarized. Their stories poured out of them.

As individual tenants, we are subject to conditions imposed by lack of information, our landlords, and the law. These conditions, when unchecked, systemically create adverse conditions. Acting together, we can advocate for our right to change these conditions to improve our living conditions and our lives.

Just as loudly as I heard the complaints, I also heard: “Oh, someone wanted to start a tenants' association a couple of years ago, but the people here, well, they’re too transient. No one is going to be interested.”

I wasn’t deterred.

It occurred to me that if they knew MY story, I might be able to get through to these tough as nails New Yorkers who, like me, simply had better things to do with their time.

So, I dug deep into my soul one morning and typed up a flyer stating that I had been raped twice as a result of landlord negligence in my building. I added that I had been burglarized as a result of landlord negligence. I even told people I’d never met that I had been held captive in my apartment as a result of landlord negligence and raped again.

When I showed it to my neighbor, who had agreed along the way to become the Vice President of our newly formed Tenants Association he was stunned: “Are you really going to share all this with people you don’t know?”

“Absolutely! If this happened to me, it can happen to any one of them.”

Nothing has really changed since I moved into my apartment in 1981. The locks are still broken, people continue to have avoidable accidents, and the landlord still does nothing. I waited 24 years for a window broken during a home invasion in 1991 to be replaced -- and it was replaced only because the landlord wanted to increase our rents via an Major Capital Improvement (MCI).

The two sister buildings on 69th Street (143 West 69 Street and 2020 Broadway) have also had their lobbies renovated, again to increase our rents through an MCI and to attract Market Rate Tenants -- who fork over market rents for apartments that have been illegally deregulated.

A long-term tenant said about the "improvements": “It’s just smoke and mirrors. That's all they're good at."

And, she’s right. On the surface everything looks just fine. But if you take a closer look, wow, we’ve got issues.

Our landlord has been commingling our Security Deposits for decades (he owns and or manages approximately 380 buildings -- we have his "yes, I've commingled" on tape).

The landlord has also created a rat infestation as a result of renting to three restaurants and allowing them to use the alleyway as a delivery area for their food; and he has successfully illegally deregulated hundreds of apartments. 

Additionally, they have ignored all laws regarding permits and have exposed us to asbestos, mold, lead, and silica dust. Who knows what that has done to our health?


To work together to build and maintain a high quality of life in our community in every possible way for the tenants in all the residential buildings owned and/or managed by Arthur Cornfeld, Alex Cornfeld, and Alan Fisher.