On March 20, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered a stop to all eviction proceedings in the state. It gave many residents the breathing room they needed amid pandemic job losses. For Heidi Russell, it prolonged an absolute nightmare. In a lengthy piece for New York Magazine, Bridget Read recounts Russell's saga, which started, seemingly fortuitously, in 2016. That was the year in which Read and her roommate Valentina Bajada were able to purchase their 860-square-foot West Village apartment for the "insider rate" of $450,000. For Manhattan it was a steal, but it was still more than they could afford, so they decided to AirBnb one of the bedrooms when Bajada left the country for an extended period. In December 2018, Katherine Gladstone and her 10-year-old stayed in the room for a few nights, uneventfully—leading Russell to think it would be a good move to rent to her long-term.
It most definitely was not, says Russell, whose claims include: Gladstone's refusal in June 2019 to leave by the end of the first month after it didn't seem like a good fit; her refusal to leave entirely; close to zero payment of rent; and Gladstone commandeering the bathroom every morning and taking control of the living room. What Read unspools is Russell's discovery that she was far from the first landlord to be stiffed by the 42-year-old and forced to fight tirelessly to get her out; in one case, someone who sublet his studio to her as a way of covering the last 4 months of his lease ended up out $20,000 after she didn't pay rent and didn't leave when the lease ended. Relief seemingly came in early 2020, when Russell was granted a warrant of eviction that would be carried out by marshals—with the date being 11 days after the eviction freeze. (Read the full story for what pandemic living with Gladstone was like.)