Man Uses Loophole To Get A Free New York Hotel Stay For Five Years Before Claiming To Own The Building

Source: Unsplash/Pascal Bernardon

For five years, a man in New York City successfully avoided paying rent at a renowned Manhattan hotel by exploiting a little-known local housing law.

However, authorities recently accused Mickey Barreto of crossing the line when he submitted documents asserting his ownership of the entire New Yorker Hotel. But that’s not all. He even attempted to collect rent from another tenant.

Barreto’s Legal Tango: Arrested, But He’s Got A Civil Perspective

On Wednesday, they arrested Mickey Barreto, 48, for making fake property records. But he was surprised when the police came to his boyfriend’s place with guns and bulletproof shields. Barreto however believes that the matter should be handled as a civil dispute rather than a criminal case.

Source: Twitter/Mickey Barreto

“I said ‘Oh, I thought you were doing something for Valentine’s Day to spice up the relationship until I saw the female officers” Barreto recalled telling his boyfriend.

Legal Twist: Exploiting Room Rental Laws To Claim Tenant Status

Barreto’s charges of fraud and criminal contempt mark the newest twist in his ongoing legal saga. It all started when he and his boyfriend rented one of over 1,000 rooms in the iconic Art Deco building constructed in 1930, paying approximately $200.

Source: Flickr/Linea Lanoie

Barreto says he had just moved to New York from Los Angeles when his boyfriend told him about a loophole. A not-so-known law that allows occupants of single rooms in buildings constructed before 1969 to demand a six-month lease. He argued that by paying for a night in the hotel, he became a tenant.

Legal Triumph: The Fight For Tenancy

He requested a lease, and the hotel promptly evicted him. ‘So I went to court the next day,’ Barreto recounted. ‘The judge denied. I appealed to the (state) Supreme Court and I won the appeal,’ he added. Barreto mentioned that during a crucial juncture in the case, lawyers representing the building’s owners failed to appear, resulting in his default victory.

Source: Wikimedia /Jeroen Bouman

The judge ruled in Barreto’s favor, forcing the hotel to provide him with a key. He stated that he stayed there rent-free until July 2023 because the building’s owners refused to negotiate a lease with him. This meant they were unable to evict him.

From Room Possession To False Ownership Claims

Manhattan prosecutors admit that the housing court granted Barreto “possession” of his room. However, they claim he went further: In 2019, he posted a forged document on a city website.

Source: Freepik/wirestock

The document falsely claimed to transfer ownership of the entire building from the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, which acquired the property in 1976. The church, established in South Korea by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is led by a self-proclaimed messiah.

Alleged Fraud: Barreto’s Attempts To Claim Ownership Of New Yorker Hotel

Barreto attempted to charge various entities as the owner of the building according to the prosecutor’s office. These included demanding rent from a hotel tenant, registering the hotel under his name with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for water and sewage payments, and insisting that the hotel’s bank transfer its accounts to him.

Source: Twitter/mickeybarreto

According to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Mickey Barreto is accused of repeatedly and falsely claiming ownership of one of the City’s most famous buildings, the New Yorker Hotel.

One Of New York’s Largest

Situated close to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, the hotel might not be the fanciest in town, but it is one of the biggest. You can easily spot it with its bold red “New Yorker” sign.

Source: Wikimedia/Daniel Schwen, Flickr/Brecht Bug

Inventor Nikola Tesla stayed in it for around a decade. NBC even broadcasted from its Terrace Room. Famous boxers like Muhammad Ali stayed there for fights at the Garden. It was repurposed as a church in 1972. It later reopened part of its building as a hotel in 1994.

Deed Drama With The Unification Church

In 2019, the Unification Church filed a lawsuit against Barreto about his deed claim. This included his claims on LinkedIn as the building’s owner. The case is still in progress. However, a judge has ruled Barreto from claiming to be the hotel’s owner for now.

Source: Wikimedia/Sun Myung Moon

A spokesperson for the Unification Church refused to comment on his arrest, citing the ongoing civil case. In that case, Barreto said that the judge granting him “possession” of his room gave him ownership of the entire building since it had never been subdivided.

Challenging Power And Profit

Barreto explained that his legal actions are a form of activism aimed at denying the Unification Church any profits. The church is famous for its mass weddings. It has also faced lawsuits over its recruitment acts and scrutiny for its close ties with North Korea, Moon’s place of birth.

Source: Newrepublic

He also said that he has never hired a lawyer for civil cases and has always represented himself. However, he changed tact and hired a criminal defense attorney on Wednesday.

Exploring The New Yorker Hotel: A Historic Landmark In Hell’s Kitchen

The Wyndham New Yorker Hotel is located at 481 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. It’s also a mixed-use building. Its Art Deco style was designed by Sugarman and Berger.

Source: Wikimedia/Simone Cortesi

The hotel opened its doors in 1930 and stands 42 stories tall, with four basement levels. The hotel is owned by the Unification Church. The lower floors are leased out for offices and dorms.

Architectural Marvel: Unveiling The New Yorker Hotel’s Design Secrets

The New Yorker Hotel’s exterior is mainly brick, terracotta, and Indiana limestone. This was after setback rules from the 1916 Zoning Resolution.

Source: Wikimedia/Matias Garabedian

Public areas on the lower levels include a bank branch, a grand lobby, and various ballrooms and dining spaces. Originally, there were 2,503 guest rooms from the fourth floor up, but now modern-day rooms start above the 19th floor.

New Yorker Hotel: A Journey Through Ownership Changes

Built by Mack Kanner, the New Yorker Hotel was initially managed by Ralph Hitz until his passing in 1940. Frank L. Andrews then assumed management. In 1954, Hilton Hotels acquired the property and conducted major renovations. The hotel changed hands again in 1956 when it was sold to Massaglia Hotels.

Source: Wikimedia/Simone Cortesi

New York Towers Inc. acquired the New Yorker in 1959. After closing in 1972, the hotel was sold to the French and Polyclinic Medical School and Health Center, which tried unsuccessfully to turn it into a hospital. Eventually, the Unification Church bought the building in 1976.

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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