Stuy Town man facing eviction for starting fires

653 East 14th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

653 East 14th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge filed a lawsuit against a longtime Stuyvesant Town tenant at the beginning of this month because the resident has reportedly had a history of terrifying his neighbors with erratic behavior and setting fires in his apartment.

The New York Post originally reported the lawsuit between the owner and resident Max Chalawsky last Sunday and the suit was filed on April 1. The landlord, officially referred to as BPP ST in the suit, is seeking permanent injunctive relief and damages against Chalawsky because of his “severely destructive behavior” detailed in the suit, which included leaving pots unattended on a gas stove and reconnecting gas lines. The suit also alleges that Chalawsky behaved menacingly towards his neighbors and building personnel and it seeks an injunction to bar him from tampering with the gas lines, as well as damages no less than $25,000.

The suit noted nine different incidents since last year that variously involved the NYPD, FDNY, EMS, other tenants and staff in his building. Five of the incidents resulted in his being taken to Bellevue or Beth Israel for observation and in a more than one instance, Chalawsky reportedly removed a cap that had been placed on his gas line.

The alleged pattern of behavior began last April when FDNY responded to Chalawsky’s apartment at 653 East 14th Street and found a fire burning in a trash can near the stove as well as an unattended burner on the stove that was lit. The next day, Chalawsky called the police, claiming that he had been robbed during the incident. Officers ultimately discovered that the money he said was stolen was actually in his pocket and they reported that he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs, resulting in one of the multiple trips to Bellevue, where Chalawsky stayed for about a week.

Another major incident occurred later that year at the end of June, when Chalawsky was removed to Beth Israel Hospital for observation because he was reportedly banging on apartment doors in his building and got into an argument with a tenant in one of the apartments, resulting in a call to the NYPD.

The suit noted that in an incident last July, building personnel found Chalawsky in his hallway, banging on one of his neighbor’s doors while only wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt. Chalawsky reportedly launched into an incoherent rant at the time and during the incident, he also cut his foot, resulting in a large amount of blood in the hallway. An 18-year-old resident of the apartment where Chalawsky was banging on the door said that she was deeply disturbed by her neighbor’s conduct.

The landlord had a plumber cap the gas line into Chalawsky’s apartment after an incident last August when he was found running around outside the building in pajama pants and bare feet and a burner on his stove was lit beneath an empty pot. Residents in his building reported a gas odor the next day and after investigating, building personnel found that Chalawsky had allegedly removed the cap on his gas line. Chalawsky was taken to Bellevue and the gas line was recapped.

The landlord served Chalawsky with a notice of termination on September 15, 2015 and subsequently began proceedings to evict him. The suit noted that there were no other incidents reported for a number of months following the beginning of eviction proceedings but on January 28, the landlord received a new complaint about smoke coming from his apartment. When they arrived, security personnel said that Chalawsky had burned his pant leg with a lit cigarette and had opened the windows to clear the smoke that had filled the apartment.

The most recent incident occurred on March 26 when there was another complaint about smoke in the apartment and when security responded, Chalawsky reportedly slammed the door in their face. After persistent knocking, security said that Chalawsky finally let them in and admitted that he had reconnected the gas line and had again left a pot on the stove unattended. A few days later, security returned with employees from the engineering department, a locksmith and a manager and the gas line was recapped and locked.

According to the suit, Chalawsky has been a tenant since February, 1991 and even though Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge didn’t take over the property until recently, most of the staff involved in the incidents reportedly remained the same and by the time the new owner was in charge, there was already a “substantial record” of dangerous behavior on the part of Chalawsky.

The Post had previously spoken with Chalawsky, who’s a teacher, in 2010 about his stint in the city’s infamous “rubber room,” which city officials had said was due to use of corporal punishment and verbal abuse as a public school teacher, although Chalawsky claimed the most serious charge was incompetence.

Chalawsky did not have a lawyer on file and he could not be reached for comment.

Blackstone spokesperson Paula Chirhart said the owner couldn’t comment on individual tenant situations. “But,” she stated, “the safety of our residents is top priority.”

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