An accused arsonist who allegedly twice set fire to his luxury midtown apartment building is trying to use Gov. Cuomo’s new pandemic rules to dodge eviction, his landlord claims.
The alleged firebug has left residents in the 37-story hi-rise “in constant fear for their lives,” according to court papers filed by the landlord, who has been trying to oust him for months.
But when faced with an eviction notice — after allegedly causing $3.5 million in damage to the West 59th Street building — Christian Ledan filed a form claiming he’d had financial hardship because of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Hardship Declaration forms are part of new rules signed into law by Gov. Cuomo in December. Most tenants who file the form have their evictions paused for weeks.
Christian Ledan pays just $1,117 monthly for a one-bedroom apartment at One Waterline Square under affordable housing rules. Market-rate one-bedrooms in the building go for nearly $6,000 a month.
After weeks of erratic and paranoid behavior that included Ledan, 48, screaming and cursing at people in the lobby, and claiming he was being hacked, watched in the shower and monitored by the FBI, he allegedly set fire to cardboard boxes in his kitchen around 4:30 a.m.
“The voices in his head told him to do so,” according to a fire marshal’s report and court papers.
“Nervous about keeping the fire inside,” he dragged the burning materials into the hall, where authorities found “a pyre,” according to a criminal complaint charging Ledan with second-degree arson.
The FDNY was forced to break open Ledan’s door and “drag” him out, the landlord said in legal papers.
No one was hurt in the July blaze, but that “was by a thin stroke of luck,” landlord RCB3 Affordable LLC claims.
At the time, housing courts were closed due to Cuomo’s eviction moratorium, and a source said the pandemic delayed a fire marshal’s report on the incident.
By the time Ledan was arrested in September, he claimed to have no memory of the fire.
With the ongoing criminal case not scheduled to be heard in court until May 10, RCB3 Affordable Vice President John Gagnier begged for help in court papers, pleading, “This situation cannot continue.”
At least one fearful neighbor broke their lease and moved, and another tenant voiced concern Ledan would “kill us all,” according to the court filing. The fire and water damaged all seven elevators and common areas, the landlord claims in court papers seeking to boot Ledan.
RCB3 Affordable notified the fiery tenant in February his lease would be terminated. On March 15, Ledan filed the COVID-19 hardship declaration form.
Two days later, Ledan allegedly set a second fire, this time in his closet, according to the landlord’s lawsuit, which claims building workers found smoke pouring from Ledan’s door, which was propped open with a laptop. The cause of the fire is under investigation, the FDNY said.
Tenants who file the hardship form in the face of eviction typically have their cases put on hold until at least May 1, under new rules from Albany. More than 25,500 tenants citywide filed the form as of last week, according to the Office of Court Administration.
Ledan’s claim of financial hardship is bunk, asserts the landlord, who notes in the litigation that the “entirety” of Ledan’s rent has been paid for not by him, but with a subsidy.
RCB3 Affordable has barred Ledan from the building for now, and says costs from both fires now total more than $4 million. The landlord wants a judge to deem Ledan an exception under the new rules and his behavior grounds for his immediate ejection.
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