Lifelong Williamsburg resident and landlord to hundreds of tenants, Mario Salerno announced on Monday that he will waive April’s rent for all of his residential and commercial tenants.
Salerno who is 59-years-old was born on Metropolitan Avenue and his father started a gas station at 451 Lorimer St. in 1959, which his family still operates as Salerno Auto Body Shop.
Over the years Salerno acquired a series of buildings primarily in Williamsburg and estimates that he has approximately 200 tenants in 80 apartments: “I had a lot of people telling me they don’t know how they will pay next month’s rent,” he said.
Salerno grew concerned that his tenants would not be able to afford necessities on top of their monthly rent as all non-essential businesses in New York have shutdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic leading to a boom in unemployment.
“I’m really not concerned about the rent right now, I’m concerned about peoples’ health. Not only are we up against an epidemic, these poor people have no jobs and they’re worried about getting sick. I didn’t think it was much on a person like me, who god was good to, to help them all out,” he said.
On Monday, a letter was posted in the entrance of Salerno’s buildings with the announcement that April’s rent will be waived for all tenants: : “Due to the recent pandemic of coronavirus COVID-19 affecting all of us, please note I am waiving rent for the month of April 2020,” the letter states.
“They’re all very appreciative. I told them ‘make sure you help your neighbor,'” Salerno said.
Asked if he’s taking extra precautions at his buildings because of the virus, he said his team is vigilant with cleaning and sterilization.
“Me, as a landlord, I make sure I clean the buildings daily, I send my men there every night and we make sure we clean and sterilize for everyone’s safety.”
Salerno owns residential buildings on Maujer and Lorimer Streets, but said the offer extends to his commercial tenants such as the owner of a hair salon on Metropolitan Avenue which notified Salerno that the business might have to close for good due to the sustained drop in revenue.
Other tenants who didn’t lose their jobs offered to pay April’s rent as usual, and in some instances even offered to cover their out-of-work roommates’ rent.
Salerno said that he hopes everyone in NYC will work together where they can to get past the pandemic.
“If everyone could stay home, take care each other; whoever is fortunate to work, please try to help the person who can’t put food on the table.”