Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leona Helmsley: 'The Queen of Mean'

The Resident Uprisings, East Coast

A major battle against Helmsley Enterprises had been won, yet the war was not yet over. Back in New York, Harry faced even more legal battles over his proposed condo conversion plan at another property in the Bronx known as Parkchester. It was apparent that the laws on conversion needed to be better regulated nationwide in order to protect leasing tenants from unfair housing practices.

Harry Helmsley
Harry Helmsley

To add to Harry's problems, tension was stirring at one of his properties located in midtown Manhattan known as Tudor City. In 1970, Harry and several other investors laid down $ 36 million to buy a charming middle-class urban sprawl in the heart of the city that included a store, post office, hotel and thirteen apartment buildings, as well as other amenities.

Two small parks that served as an oasis to residents had become one of the most desired features of the residential complex. The parks were places where families would gather and children would play. In fact, it was the parks that initially attracted the interest of potential residents, eventually facilitating their decision to take up residence in Tudor City.

Therefore, it wasn't hard to imagine the shock and outrage of tenants when they learned of Harry Helmsley and fellow investors' plans to erect two towering office buildings on the precise location of where the parks laid. To Harry's dismay, he found himself in another battle against tenants who quickly organized and began to protest the building of the massive structures on their beloved parks. Yet, Harry would hear nothing of it. He was determined to go forward with his plans no matter what. It was his property and he believed he had the right to build what he wanted on it.

In 1972, the tenants appealed to the City Planning Commission, hoping to block the building of the structures. The Commission came up with a series of alternative proposals in an effort to appease the opposing parties. However, Harry was dissatisfied with the alternatives proposed.

Throughout the rest of the decade, Harry, the city government and Tudor City tenants remained immersed in a heated battle over the parks. The opposing sides waged their war in both the media and in the courtroom. Yet, by the time the 1980s rolled around Harry had had enough. His reputation had almost been irreparably damaged. The public began to view him as a greedy and insensitive landlord who cared little for the welfare of his tenants. Moreover, his residential holdings began to lose money.

Harry gave up his battle to build his towers on the parks and he eventually sold Tudor City to another real estate firm. His interest in residential properties was completely exhausted. Instead, Harry decided to turn his focus to expanding his hotel empire.


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