Zenek Podolsky, Stuart’s now-deceased father, was an immigrant who worked as a butcher before getting into real estate. According to court records and contemporary news reports, during the early 1980s, he and his sons hired a criminal gang that specialized in driving rent-controlled tenants from their apartments, paying between $500 and $1,500 for each tenant they pushed out.
The conspiracy was chillingly systematic: after installing a loyal superintendent, gang leaders would proceed to move drug addicts, prostitutes and thugs into vacant apartments. The gang would break into rent-controlled units and ransack them, would start fires and floods, and “would generally do their utmost to make the building unlivable,” according to a court decision. Prosecutors claimed that a 72-year-old man was pushed down a flight of stairs, and an elderly woman died of pneumonia after the heat to her apartment was cut. Another tenant hanged himself.
(Springtime drinking illustration by Alex Citrin)
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