A senior citizen book lover from Brooklyn, NY is being threatened with eviction for having an expansive library in his tiny apartment.
67 year old Ben Hammer has spent 46 years living in his now rent-controlled apartment but is now facing an uncertain future thanks to a landlord who believes his collection of books is a fire hazard. Ben moved into the one-bedroomed apartment in 1973 while working as a seaman on international freighters but received a notice of eviction just months after his rent was frozen at $700 a month. The eviction notice also coincided with the building being sold to a huge company for $17.3m, which Ben does not think is a coincidence.
Ben Hammer’s book collection started when he was a child. He insists he is not a hoarder as each of the books he has kept is of sentimental value to him. Every room contains books- from the bedroom to the bathroom- and range from modern literature to early history.
“They’re important to me,” says Hammer, “Unlike a lot of people, I happen to have respect for the printed word. I am not a media person. I do not own a television. to me it is valuable. To somebody else, it’s just a stack of stuff.”
The eviction notice read:
“You have been keeping your apartment in an extremely unsanitary, unhealthy, and unclean manner in violation of your lease agreement. There are boxes, bags, papers, debris, filing cabinets, wood crates and books piled from floor to ceiling throughout the apartment.”
The maintenance director for the building, Nelson Diaz, noted: “This tenant has literally filled his apartment with paper and has created a significant fire hazard for him and the entire building.”
According to sources who have visited the site, Hammer’s home has walls entirely lined with books, against the walls, on every shelf alongside family photos, boxes of books and papers sit stacked high, with framed prints of the ships he worked on as a seaman.
Hammer is quite rightly upset about his home being scrutinised and attacked in such a way, and to be threatened with eviction for some dust and a love of reading seems a tad overboard.
“You might call it a library, my landlord calls it a fire hazard,” he says, “Pure and simple, I’m a long-term senior citizen resident in a rent-stabilised apartment and I got a rent freeze that I’m lawfully entitled to. If he disposed me he can realise a windfall of profits at my expense.”
And his lawyers from the Legal Aid Society agree:
“Unscrupulous landlords will employ a range of tactics to shirk legal obligations and boost their bottom line. It’s shameful that our clients- seniors, families, the disabled, and children- in rent-regulated units continue to suffer this type of harassment with little recourse.”
Hammer and his landlord are due in court this week.
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