April 17, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

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An innovative American who stays in a free hotel in New York for five years ends up overrated

An innovative American who stays in a free hotel in New York for five years ends up overrated

The New Yorker Hotel is located a stone's throw from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. Not exactly one of the most glamorous hotels in New York, but it is one of the largest and with the big red “New Yorker” sign, it is an iconic and often photographed symbol of the city. Many famous boxers, including Muhammad Ali, spent the night there when they had boxing matches. Inventor Nikola Tesla even lived there for ten years. For a fee of course.

opening in law

A certain Mickey Barretto didn't do that. He lived at the New Yorker Hotel for five years without paying rent. It all started when the American and his partner paid nearly $200 (186 euros) to stay overnight in one of more than 1,000 rooms in the 1930s Art Deco high-rise, in June 2018. Barretto had just flown in from Los Angeles to New Jersey. York was moved when his friend told him about a glaring loophole in the local housing code that allows residents of single rooms in buildings built before 1969 to demand a six-month lease.

The famous New Yorker sign on the hotel.Image by Getty Images

Since Barreto had paid for one night at the hotel, he considered himself a tenant. But when he asked to rent the hotel, he was shown the door right away. He didn't stop there. The next day he went to court. The judge initially dismissed his case. But Pareto wouldn't budge. He went to the Supreme Court and eventually won the appeal, because at a crucial stage of the case the building owners' lawyers did not show up.

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The judge ordered the hotel to give Barreto the key. Because the building's owners never wanted to negotiate a lease with him, but can no longer evict him due to the judge's decision, the American can live in the building without paying rent until July 2023.

He went too far

But the smart man overestimated his power, Manhattan prosecutors said this week. They acknowledged that the court granted Barreto “possession” of his hotel room at that time. But they say he didn't stop there: In May 2019, he uploaded a false deed to a city website, claiming to transfer ownership of the entire building to himself from the organization that had purchased the building in 1976, Holy Spirit Society for the Unification of World Christianity. On LinkedIn, the man casually introduced himself as the owner.

The Unification Church soon sued Barreto in 2019 over the title claim. That case is still ongoing, but the judge has already ruled that Barreto is not allowed to pretend to be the owner in the meantime. The American ignored that. He also submitted additional false documents twice in 2023 in an attempt to secure ownership of the building. For his part, Barreto says that the judge who granted him “possession” of his room in 2018, indirectly gave him the entire building because “it was not divided at all.”

He was arrested Wednesday

The prosecutor's office said that Barreto, as the alleged owner of the building, then attempted to charge various costs, including charging one of the tenants for rent. Barreto also contacted the hotel's franchisee, Wyndham, and began discussions to transfer the franchise to him.

A view of the New Yorker Hotel.  Google Street View image

A view of the New Yorker Hotel.Google Street View image

Barreto was arrested on Wednesday and charged with fraud and providing false ownership information. The 40-year-old man said he was “surprised” when armed police suddenly appeared at his door. “At first I thought maybe my boyfriend had organized something for Valentine’s Day to spice up our relationship. But then I saw the female officers,” Barretto said, according to the AP.

“Mickey Barretto repeatedly and fraudulently claimed ownership of one of the city's most iconic landmarks, the New Yorker Hotel,” said Manhattan attorney Alvin Bragg. “We will not tolerate the manipulation of property data in our city by those who seek to defraud the system for personal gain.”

Barreto himself says that he “never intended to commit fraud.” “I don't think I committed any fraud at all.”