The first time I saw Malina Nealis, it was in a the video below, where she is recorded beating the cameraman with a file folder, yelling in a thick Eastern European accent ‘Don’t take the pictures of me!'”
This in itself is almost comically insane, but it gets worse.
Andrew, who lives in one of Nealis’ buidlings, 95 Clay Street, shot the video.
“Our lawyer suggested that we get video evidence,” Andrew explained (he asked that we omit his last name for the sake of anonymity), ” So I saw her on the street and said ‘don’t prevent HPD from coming in the building’ and she just kind went ballistic on me.”
Daniel Pippenger, Andrew’s neighbor at 95 Clay, gave me the backstory.
It turns out that Nealis was illegally rigging the building’s pipes to funnel gas into an un-permitted building that she built (also illegally) in the backyard of 95 Clay in 2005. Despite stop work orders from the city, she continued to build.
“She just does whatever she wants to do,” said Daniel, who has lived at the building on Clay Street since 2012. “She doesn’t care what the city says.”
A little research indicates that the building is actually owned by Kevin Nialis (possible spouse or son?), however the tenants make checks out to Malina.
When the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) sent out inspectors to investigate, Nealis would change the locks to the boiler room each day, frantically trying to keep city officials out of the basement. This happened at least 6 times before Andrew confronted her.
She was also illegally renting out the basement as an apartment, Daniel said. That tenant was forced to leave, which is a definite blessing for them in the long run, considering what happened next.
Finally in December, Emergency Services broke down the door to the basement and the City Marshall and National Grid removed the entire gas meter, leaving residents without any heat or hot water for 40 long winter days. The city also removed the connection to the cooking gas line, so they didn’t even have access to their stoves.
“I took my showers at the YMCA,” Andrew said. “That’s what all of the tenants did.”
Meanwhile, the roof of the illegal back building started leaking and the tenants there lost their electricity and gas. The top two floors moved out and only recently received their security deposits, according to Daniel. There is still a family living on the ground floor of that building.
“She’s in Housing Court almost every other day because all of her buildings are so dilapidated,” Daniel told me, adding that he and his neighbors also deal with leaky plumbing, crumbling walls, and other less than ideal conditions on a daily basis.
Nealis also owns 156 India Street, a building that literally collapsed several years ago. One girl even wrote a Thought Catalog piece about it, describing how she came home one night to find that her building was completely roped off by police, who explained that the back wall of the structure had begun to crumble, causing the 3rd floor to jut out dangerously and one of fire fire escapes to fall off. The Red Cross had to evacuate the tenants to a shelter for the night.
Nealis made the NY Public Advocates watchlist of NYC’s Worst Landlords (courtesy of Bill de Blasio) with 98 total infractions, but that list was last updated in October of 2013 (she has been on it since 2011). And given the recent dealings with 95 Clay, there are many more violations in the works.
She is also the landlord of 202 Kent, which has reported multiple infractions, including building violations and again, lack of heat and hot water.
When I asked the two tenants why they would stay in the building, their answers pointed to the larger catastrophe of finding decent housing in New York City.
“It’s really hard to get an apartment in New York and I really wanted to live in Greenpoint,” Andrew said (he moved into 95 Clay in August of 2013). “I saw the apartment on Craigslist and the price wasn’t great, but it was on the same level as the other things out there. As soon as I moved in, ConEd refused to give me an account because the landlord was in so much debt from not paying the electricity bills for the common areas in the building. That was kind of a red flag.”
Daniel explained that he was staying in the building to fight against his slummy landlord on principle. A few tenants didn’t want to go to Housing Court for fear of being blacklisted. But Daniel and 5 other tenants began a rent strike in January and are actively fighting against Nealis in Court, with the help of Council member Levin’s office, St. Nick’s Alliance, and Brooklyn Legal Services.
“We’re hoping that the city will take over the building,” Andrew said.
Watch Nealis’ certifiably insane behavior below. And spread the word so that no one you know rents from her. At least some lucky people could be spared the experience of living in these torturous housing conditions.