Following a horrific report in Sunday's New York Post, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson showed up outside 140 Hester Street in Chinatown Monday afternoon to investigate the conditions of the Sun Bright Hotel.
According to the Post, men are living in hellish conditions on the third and fourth floors of the building in a "human kennel."
Thompson and some first responders were able to gain access to those floors. Two female reporters and Thompson's spokeswoman were denied entry.
A disgusted Thompson later confirmed the Post's report, describing tiny chicken-wire-encased spaces about the size of a cot.
"Dirty isn't even — it is filthy," Thompson said. "It is filthy, it is disgusting."
"In Puerto Rico, we have chicken houses where we house chickens," interjected Israel Miranda, President of the Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics Union. "The chicken houses in Puerto Rico look better than what they're living in now."
"The stench is severe," Thompson added.
A 74-year-old resident reportedly told the New York Post that a dead body was left there for "about 15 days."
"Hopefully the city starts to pay attention now, after two days of attention and publicity," Thompson declared. "Hopefully they get something done here because it is disgraceful."
Thompson said the Department of Buildings must respond immediately.
"If they don't, it is an even worse outrage than what people are going through right now," he said. "The conditions up there are deplorable."
The Department of Building's response to a request for comment on the Sun Bright Hotel was: "The Department is investigating."
This is some tenth-level nation that allows its people to be treated this way," Thompson fumed. "That's not how we allow our fellow New Yorkers to be treated. Not like this."
"To let human beings, fellow New Yorkers live in conditions like this..." Thompson trailed off. "This isn't New York City."
But according to Steven Goldstein, an EMS FDNY lieutenant, this is New York City.
Goldstein said that he's been called to places like this before all around the city, including other places in Chinatown and in Brooklyn.
Mark Jack, 38, was staying at a YMCA in Flushing, Queens and had made a reservation on Expedia.com to stay at the Sun Bright, he said.
The employee staffing the front desk, however, would not allow him to see the room before he confirmed his reservation.
Watching a disgusted Thompson exit the building ruing the "disgraceful" living conditions, Jack uneasily reconsidered his reservation.
"They have my credit card," he worried. "Expedia asks for your credit card."
A man in a wheelchair outside who requested to be identified only by his first time, Michael, said he has lived there for almost 13 years.
"The roaches are tearing me up," he said, anxious that he had just run out of roach spray. "They're killing me, the flies and the roaches are driving me crazy at night."
Michael, 66, said he pays $300 per month to live there. When he first moved in, the rate was $8 per week.
He said a senior citizen program on Mott Street is trying to find him a new place to live. He is diabetic, he said, and has had both of his feet amputated. The building does not have an elevator.
Michael said Thompson shook his hand and talked to him before the candidate went upstairs to inspect the premises.
"You think he'd make a good mayor?" Michael asked. "I think he'd make a good mayor, don't you? You can vote for him, I can't vote for him. I got a [criminal] record, I can't vote."
Michael dismissed assurances to the contrary, maintaining his criminal record bars him from voting.
"I wish I could vote, but I can't vote," he insisted. "I got too many arrests."
The New York Civil Liberties Union confirmed that former convicts are legally allowed to vote in city elections as long as they are no longer on parole.
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