Rosario Dawson’s family wants to buy low-income housing units in the East Village

May 15, 2017

544 West 13th Street under construction in January, via Paul A. Castrucci Architect (L)

Actress Rosario Dawson’s family hopes to buy low-income apartments in a newly renovated building as part of a city program that converts abandoned homes into affordable units. Rosario grew up in an East Village squatter’s den and her family continues to live in the East 13th Street co-op, even after the actress became famous and amassed a net worth of more than $16 million. According to the New York Post, long-time tenants of the building say the Dawson family bullied their way into controlling a third of the 14-unit residence over the last 20 years.

The 19th-century building at 544 East 13th Street (between Avenues A and B) has been owned by the nonprofit Urban Homesteading Assistance Board since 2002, and the city sold the property for $1 each to aid the non-profit’s goal of helping squatters take legal ownership of the properties. However, its co-op conversion did not begin until 2015 and the city has spent $1.78 million for renovations. Squatters now are being given the chance to buy apartments there for $2,500 each, but they can earn no more than $53,450 per year have to live in the building at least 270 days of the year to be considered eligible.

Rosario’s mother, Isabel, who says charity work takes her out of the city much of the year, doesn’t want to adhere to the primary residency rule. During a December 2016 meeting, Isabel asked the nonprofit representative if the rule can be changed to just six months.

One of the original squatters, Annie Wilson, discovered the building in 1986 overrun by feral cats and garbage. Wilson, an activist and artist, worked with other community members to restore the building and bring in water and electricity. She told the post that Rosario financially backs her family. “She’s supportive of her parents. I don’t understand why she hasn’t acquired housing for them elsewhere so these units could be for New Yorkers in need.”

The Dawsons first landed at the East Village co-op in 1986 and were voted by other squatters to occupy apartment 4C. Although the family soon moved to Texas, they continued to sublet their unit to others, a peculiar move for tenants in this type of building. When they returned to East 13th Street, Isabel allegedly became physically aggressive with neighbors. In a 2001 letter, the president of the Tenants’ Association, Alfa Diallo, wrote, “Isabel Dawson’s threatening and violent behavior have jeopardized the safety of the residents.”

Despite these complaints, Isabel and other Dawson family members were able to stay in the building, and ss the Post reported, the family spread their squatting to other apartments, even taking over one unit while its tenant was at work. Isabel’s husband event started living in a room on the first floor that tenants hoped to turn into a gallery or music room.

Adam Leitman Bailey, a lawyer who represents the Dawsons, told the Post that after reviewing the family’s tax returns, all of them are qualified to buy the apartments. “I can guarantee you that none of them are wealthy,” he said.

[Via NY Post]


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  1. J

    Adam Leitman Bailey yawned and did other things during the half hour consultation with my mother who was trying to get TMOBILE out of her courtyard so she could give the pharmacy tenant permission to put their air conditioner on the roof (they should have done a split system instead of demanding this of her which cost her money and time and stress to resolve). He gave us a hint maybe – or maybe we tend to go All In at every speck or morsel.

    Why does this lawyer always help Rosario Dawson so much? Who is sticking up for the other people in that building? What about Rosie Mendez? Why is she also on the side of the movie star’s family but not the other residents?

    It doesn’t make any sense except I dont think these favors are doing the identity in NYC any favors – it creates the impression of parasites. And I am really worried about what happens next with how Chinese are being set up to be depicted – not other Asians who all get privacy.

    And it’s because of real estate – the Loisaida and Alphabet City and Chinatown – even if I guessed right, there is no way there can be any real change because everyone’s been disempowered so they can be talent scouted to be empowered and grateful to their sponsors. It stinks.

    I don’t necessarily feel negatively about them – I care that they got their building for free instead of living in the other boroughs as Rosario Dawson herself said in an interview – that they intentionally came into Manhattan to get the benefits – I care about Cyndi Lauper living in rent control too – but she was a little girl and she didn’t deserve to make that movie that i think may have smeared her identity – I only saw one scene on youtube just now and … that’s not fair to her as a young girl. Maybe the shock effect did launch her career and keeps her employed. I had a suspicion recently without seeing kids if maybe pedophiles still had a crush on her from her teenage role but I had never seen that movie. I think the anecdote from that woman who is in Westworld and Mission Impossible 2 is the same – that condemnation is on the desired/exploited person but not on the consumers even if they financially compensate her.

    The whole thing with her in the news … I don’t know. I think it’s bad and they should just move out and live together in California – it’s like they filled her arms with a cornucopia’s contents but she has a tight fisted grip on that first piece of candy and now it condemns her and her family’s conduct is condemning them and her but also I think the whole situation with offering options to be officially poor on paper in NYC – it’s part of the culture of NYC – and it’s generosity and sympathy – but I have a theory that I really dont’ want to express since I plan to leave NYC as soon as possible – but it’s a doozy about rent control and rent stabilized tenants – you have to be registered – you have to be known – the city feels watched and I think it goes back to before I was born. I think that how Santa Claus works … the teeth don’t necessarily fall on the first generation.