NYC condo manager under investigation for Nazi murals

- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City's Human Rights Commission have opened separate investigations into the manager of a Queens condominium building where the lobby is adorned with images of weapons, Hitler, and Confederate generals and where residents say they're scared to complain out of fear of retaliation.

The lobby at 47-55 39th Place is plastered in murals, including one of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and other of President Trump. Instead of listing tenants' names, a building directory lists celebrities along with notorious Nazi commanders Rudolf Hess and Joseph Mengele.

"There's no question that the images of hate, the images of violence, and the threats of both of those things are rampant in this building," said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Sunnyside.

A week after the murals and allegation of intimidation came to light, the Human Rights Commission stepped in.

"The commission is launching an investigation into tenant harassment and discrimination at the Sunnyside condo building," Deputy Commissioner Hollis Pfitsch said, "due to a hostile environment created alleged threatening behavior connected to Nazi and Confederate imagery, swastikas and other hate symbols and displays in the lobby of the building."

Pfitsch and other officials held a "day of action" in Sunnyside Tuesday, handing out fliers to make sure tenants know their rights.

But one local resident has already taken action by pulling down some of the offensive imagery himself.

"It seemed like it was an easy solution," Jeff Orlick told Fox 5. Orlick, who doesn't live in the 39th Place condo, posted before and after pictures on Instagram of the poster of Hitler and other World War II figures crumpled in a trash can.

"How I felt was, all these residents there are powerless against this tyrant," Orlick said. "Everyone is scared in the building and someone needed to come that was not affiliated with the building, who is not punishable by his laws and just simply take it down."

Orlick said he is not worried about any consequences he might face for trespassing. 

Milano reportedly has been out of the country but is set to return to Queens soon. Van Bramer said police will be keeping a close watch when he does.

Milano's attorney Jacob Laufer told Fox 5 in a statement that the murals were "approved by the board to reflect American history... While the appropriateness of such informative and evocative artwork in the lobby is a matter of judgment and taste, no fair observer would conclude that it is bigoted in any way."

"It appears that some dissatisfied Unit Owners have turned to the media with skewed accounts and false narratives. The Condominium is confident that any investigation by the New York City Human Rights Commission will result in a finding that there has been no harassment," Laufer said. "Ultimately, we are confident that the Condominium which is being smeared will be vindicated, and the truth will emerge amidst irresponsible accounts that have been conveyed."

If Milano is found to have violated the city's human rights law he could face fines of up to $250,000.

The Human Rights Commission and the Attorney General's Office are urging residents and others who may have witnessed harassment to contact them. 

"We're troubled by these reports and have opened an investigation into the complaints of harassment made by building residents," said a spokesperson for the attorney general.

You can contact the Office of the Human Rights Commission at 718-722-3131.

You can file a complaint with the AG online: https://ag.ny.gov/complaint-forms.

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