Tenants living in an illegal apartment were unable to stand straight because the ceilings were as low as 4ft 6ins. New York City landlord Xue Ping Ni illegally converted his flat into nine units by splitting it into two and creating a new floor. In total 11 people lived at the 634-square-foot property in Lower East Side, Manhattan, which has been likened to the 7th 1/2 floor in the cult film Being John Malkovich. In the movie, workers were forced to crouch down because the Manhattan office was so cramped. Councilman Ben Kallos, who made the film comparison, blasted Ni, saying: ‘It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life.’ Officials closed the property in 165 Henry Street following a raid last Wednesday and some of the tenants have temporarily been rehoused by American Red Cross.
New York’s Department of Buildings found ten violations, including not having sprinklers and the required permits for the alterations. The pipes had also been bubble wrapped to protect residents and an unauthorised new bathroom was installed. Ni received a $144,000 (£118,000) fine as a result, the New York Post reported. He had been raking the cash in charging $600 (£494) a month for some of the units.
The Department of Buildings said in a statement: ‘Every New Yorker deserves a safe and legal place to live, which is why we’re committed to rooting out dangerous firetraps and ordering the landlords to make these apartments safe. ‘Tenants living in truncated and windowless dwelling units like this poses an extreme hazard to their safety, as well as the safety of their neighbours, and first responders – a hazard that cannot be tolerated in our city.’ Mr Kallos said the number of air conditioners seen from the outside should have raised eyebrows, adding: ‘I’ve never seen air conditioners stacked atop one another like that – five air conditioners in three windows.’ Officials also busted another property in the same building, which was previously owned by Ji, which was also illegally converted.