August 22, by Nathaly Pesantez
A rally is set to take place in front of a Sunnyside residential building to denounce images of Hitler and Confederacy figures in the building lobby and the controversial property manager who put them there.
The rally, organized by councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, will begin at 9 a.m. on Aug. 23 outside the building’s main entrance at 47-55 39th Place.
“Nearly the entire lobby is covered with posters that pay tribute to the Confederacy and dictators like Hitler and Mussolini,” reads a statement released by councilmember Van Bramer’s office in announcing the rally.
The building’s main lobby walls contain elaborate murals dedicated to figures, motifs, and icons of American history, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Statue of Liberty, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, the bald eagle, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But once past the main lobby area, which also contains two display cases showing the full texts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, is a banner going across two apartment doors on the first floor depicting the leaders of Allied and Axis powers of World War II, which includes an image of Hitler raising his arm in a Nazi salute next to the red black and white flag of the Nazi party opposite Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Under the stairs of the lobby is a section dedicated to the Civil War, with depictions of General Robert E. Lee opposite to General Ulysses Grant, with both Confederate and Union flags showing. Above that is a section for President Donald Trump, along with a “build the wall” quote.
A long-time resident of the building who did not want to give her name out of fear of retribution characterized Neal Milano, the property manager, as outlandish, especially in the images he placed in the lobby. “You think you’re walking into a museum,” the resident said.
The resident also said she did not like the reference to Hitler right past the lobby.
Another resident who has lived in the building since the 1970s and did not want to be named said Milano has been steadily adding artwork to the lobby walls and surfaces over the past five to six years, and usually does it overnight. “I just stay friendly with him—keep your enemies close,” the resident said.
The high fencing around the building contains warning signs for trespassers, including one that reads “there is nothing inside worth your life” above an image of a gun, along with huge patriotic signs donning American flags and “God Bless America” on them. The signs and the high fencing combined, according to the above resident, make the building “look like a concentration camp”.
But beyond the lobby are allegations of Milano harassing tenants and leaving explicit notices about residents in the building for all to see, as is the case when Milano allegedly posted a notice about a “six-foot-four Middle Eastern person of interest” who has slept over in a tenant’s apartment “more than 20 times”, according to NY1 News.
Tenants also told NY1 News that Milano has placed a fee of $200 if cardboard boxes are not folded properly for disposal.
Lynn Calvacca, a resident who owns a condo in the building, has filed a lawsuit against Milano in dispute of a fine. The Sunnyside Post has reached out to Calvacca for comment.
To add to the controversy surrounding Milano are fake NYPD posters plastered by the dozen in neighboring streets labeling Milano as a “tier 3” sexual offender who is being “closely monitored” by police.
The NYPD confirmed that the posters are fake, and said that Milano has no history of sexual offenses.
Councilmember Van Bramer, who took a tour of the building lobby, said he reached out to mayor’s office and to the commission on human rights to see what can be legally done about the images of Hitler and Confederate figures, and to see if an investigation can be opened into Milano in his capacity as a property manager.
“We are condemning the symbols of hate,” a spokesperson for Van Bramer said.
Some residents, however, say that Milano has a certain way of communicating that may rub some people in the building the wrong way.
“To be honest, Milano is doing a lot of good things,” a male renter of the building said. The resident also said he took it upon himself to take down some of the fake NYPD posters around the neighborhood.
Another resident who has owned her condo for about nine years said she is not surprised about the news coverage surrounding Milano and the building, but says there is more to the story.
“Yes, there are some things that he’s done to make the building look a little bit inappropriate, but he’s done a lot of good things with the building after he took over five or six years ago,” she said.
The Sunnyside Post has left messages on the condo board’s answering machine, and was unable to reach Milano by phone or email.