Volume 78 - Number 50 / May 20 - 26 , 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Villager photo by Marlis Momber

Photographer Corky Lee, left, with Matt Metzgar at the May 9 rent party for Metzgar and his partner, Victoria Linchong. They are holding a vintage print by photographer Marlis Momber showing the actor Luis Guzman, in clown makeup, at a 1982 “Save the Lower East Side” anti-gentrification rally at Fourth St. and Avenue C. Momber was selling the print for $600 to help out Metzgar and Linchong.

Friends rock rent for a couple who were on the ropes

By Lincoln Anderson

After a landlord-tenant dispute that turned ugly, Matt Metzgar and Victoria Linchong were in dire need of financial assistance. Showing what friends are for, their neighbors, fellow activists, musicians, “a couple of librarians” and Linchong’s teenage son’s friends came through in the clutch, at a rent party, helping the couple raise $1,500. 

In return for their $20 contributions — some gave more — they got to sing “rock and roll karaoke” with Metzgar’s band.

The cash from the May 9 bash at the E. Sixth St. Center ended a tenuous situation that saw the two and Linchong’s son, Miles, 15, locked out of their apartment, and Metzgar — a former squatter and the drummer for Hooverville — jailed for 21 hours. The couple slammed it as an “illegal lockout.”

The dispute started October 2007 when Metzgar and Linchong, who live at 647 E. 11th St., demanded their landlord fix four windows in bad disrepair. They said the landlord, David Jacobson, had offered everyone buyouts upon taking over the building five years ago, but that they’re among the few holdouts. Jacobson owns seven East Village buildings.

Until the window problem was rectified, they resolved, they would withhold their $955-a-month rent. As Metzgar and Linchong tell it, they got a court-ordered agreement in December under which the landlord would fix the windows, and they would pay $1,000 on good faith, and pay the balance in January. 

However, at the end of February, the landlord contacted a city marshal, who took control of the apartment unbeknownst to the pair, since no notice had been posted on the door. So on Mon., May 4, when Metzgar returned to find the locks had been changed, Linchong and friends went down to Housing Court. 

Meanwhile, Metzgar had let himself into the apartment through the fire escape and changed the locks again. He tried to file a police report at the Ninth Precinct, but said officers told him he couldn’t do it. When he returned home, he said he found the landlord’s brother drilling into his front door and changing the locks yet again.

But the judge sympathized with the tenants based on several factors: Linchong — who grew up in the neighborhood — has resided in the apartment 15 years; her son lives with them; and the apartment is rent-stabilized. The judge ordered a settlement under which Metzgar and Linchong would pay their roughly $8,000 in back rent and be allowed to return to their apartment. 

The two took out loans of $6,100, and Linchong got a generous $1,000 advance from the Downtown art-house movie theater where she works, but they were still short of their goal. The rent party raised more than $1,900 — $400 of which went to the E. Sixth St. Center for the donation of the space — leaving Metzgar and Linchong with $1,500, which was just enough to reach the needed amount of $8,237.26. On May 11, they were able to re-enter their two-bedroom home.

Although Metzgar said they have solid grounds for a tenant-harassment lawsuit, “We’re not seriously considering it. We just got our apartment back.” However, he did add, “We do want to spin it off to include the possibility for rent parties for others in trouble like we were. We would like the rent party to be an ongoing thing.”

Linchong said the show of support was inspiring.

“It’s so good to know that there is still a community like that in the East Village going full force,” she said. “We’re still here, we’re still strong, we’re together.”

The Villager was unable to reach Jacobson or a representative of his company, East Village Property Management, for comment by deadline.

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