NYC Man Lives Rent-Free in Famous Manhattan Hotel for 5 Years, Claims Building Ownership

A man from New York City, for a period of five years, managed to reside in a famous Manhattan hotel without paying rent, thanks to his use of a little-known local housing statute. 

Five-Year Free Stay 

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Despite being able to live without paying rent in a renowned Manhattan hotel for half a decade, this week, prosecutors claimed Mickey Barreto crossed a line by attempting to claim the entire New Yorker Hotel building as his own and trying to impose rent on another resident. 

Surprised by the Law

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Arrested on Wednesday, Barreto, 48, was taken aback by the police’s armed intervention at his boyfriend’s residence, insisting that his case falls under civil, not criminal, jurisdiction.

Valentine’s Day Gone Wrong

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“I said, ‘Oh, I thought you were doing something for Valentine’s Day to spice up the relationship until I saw the female officers,’” Barreto recounted to his boyfriend. 

$200 Room

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This indictment on fraud and criminal contempt charges adds a new twist to the ongoing legal drama that started when he and his boyfriend initially rented a room for about $200 in the iconic Art Deco skyscraper, constructed in 1930, which houses over a thousand rooms.

Exploiting a Legal Quirk

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Barreto, who had recently relocated to New York from Los Angeles, learned from his boyfriend about a legal quirk: occupants of single rooms in pre-1969 buildings could request a six-month lease. 

Tenant’s Rights

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Asserting his status as a tenant after paying for a night’s stay, Barreto requested a lease but was promptly expelled from the hotel. 

The Battle for a Room

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“So I went to court the next day. The judge denied it. I appealed to the (state) Supreme Court and I won the appeal,” Barreto explained. 

A Default Victory

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He highlighted that his victory was partly due to the building owner’s legal representatives not attending a crucial hearing, resulting in his default win.

A Key to Free Living

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As a result of the judge’s decision, the hotel was mandated to provide Barreto with a key, leading to his uninterrupted, rent-free stay until July 2023. 

The building’s owners, unable to evict him, declined to engage in lease negotiations. 

Church Entangled in Fraud

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Manhattan’s prosecutors acknowledge that the housing court granted Barreto “possession” of his room. However, his actions escalated: In 2019, he posted a counterfeit deed on a city website, falsely claiming ownership transfer of the entire building to himself from the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, the property’s owners since 1976. 

This church, established in South Korea by the self-styled messiah, the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, found itself unwittingly entangled in his scheme.

Fraudulent Claims

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Barreto took his actions further by assuming the role of the building’s owner, which included attempting to collect rent from one of the hotel’s tenants, registering the hotel in his name with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for water and sewage bills, and demanding that the hotel’s bank transfer its accounts to him, according to the prosecutor’s office. 

Manhattan DA Reacts

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“As alleged, Mickey Barreto repeatedly and fraudulently claimed ownership of one of the City’s most iconic landmarks, the New Yorker Hotel,”  stated Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Not Just Any NYC Hotel

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Situated just a block from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, the New Yorker, while not the most opulent of the city’s hotels, is notably one of the largest. Its prominent, red “New Yorker” sign is a frequent subject for photographers. 

The Hotel of Celebrities

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The famed inventor Nikola Tesla spent a decade living at the hotel. The hotel’s Terrace Room was a broadcasting location for NBC. Notable figures, like Muhammad Ali, stayed there during events at the Garden. 

Clash Over Hotel Ownership

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In 2019, the Unification Church initiated legal action against Barreto over his deed claim and LinkedIn assertions of building ownership. The case is active, but a judge has interimly barred Barreto from identifying himself as the owner. 

Allegedly Entitled

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In this case, Barreto contended that the judge’s grant of “possession” of his room implicitly entitled him to the entire building, as it hadn’t been legally divided.

Activism or Opportunism?

Comparing, Scale, Balls,
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Barreto claims his legal battles are a form of activism against the Unification Church, known for mass weddings and controversial practices, including its recruitment methods and ties to North Korea, the birthplace of its founder, Moon. 

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