Mei Rong Song has run a flower shop at the East Broadway Mall in Chinatown for nearly 20 years. But she says her landlord suddenly wants to raise her rent from $3,000 to $12,000 per month.
Eyewitness News reporter Stacey Sager: "So he's quadrupled your previous rent?"
Sager: "What will you do?"
Song: "He said to me, if I don't want to pay that rent, I can leave."
Her store is only 260 square feet and it has no running water and no heat. On Wednesday, a group of business owners protested what they call increasingly unfair conditions in the mall. They are conditions they say are imposed by the mall's management company, a tenant of the city, which actually owns the building.
Managing agent Terry Chan was not in the office, but his lawyer says the tenants have had no increases for the past nine years, that "the rent they're paying is really ridiculously low for years. We haven't even caught up with the market rent yet."
Still, that's no consolation to 78-year-old Liu De Hong, who says his rent is more than tripling, and he's been asked to pay additional money under the table.
"I have to pay another $60,000, which I do not know what they money is for," he said through an interpreter. "I do not know how to survive with the economy going on. I picture myself finally ending up on the street."
In fact, inside the public mall, things are so bad that customers are asked to pay 30 cents to use the toilet. And if they want to go upstairs, they can't use the elevator because it's out of order.
Some of the public toilets don't even work, and at least one business owner, a shoe repairman, works in a closet that was a garbage chute. His rent is $500 per month.
WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King
NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS