A politically connected landlord on Staten Island is being accused of evicting one of her tenants because the tenant speaks Arabic -- and then stealing all of the tenant's possessions. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report:
The doorbell goes unanswered at MaryLou Shanahan's home. The townhouse on the quiet Eltingville Street is at the center of a nasty landlord-tenant dispute between the one-time chairwoman of the Island Conservative Party and a Moroccan immigrant who says Shanahan harassed her and stole all of her possessions.
"Harassment every day, every day, every day," said the tenant, 33-year-old Hasna Jalal.
Jalal moved into the third floor late last summer.
According to a federal civil complaint Jalal filed this week, the relationship between the two women soured almost immediately, after the landlord heard her speaking in Arabic. Shanahan allegedly told her, "I don't need anybody speaking Arabic in my house! You're scaring the neighbors!" and "The neighbors will think you are from al-Qaida."
Jalal also alleges that the landlord routinely cursed and insulted her, once words to the effect of, "I remember when this country was all white. Those were the days..."
"The harassment, the insults, it was nonstop every day," Jalal said.
Jalal says the situation escalated when she came home one day and found the locks changed and everything she owned gone. After neighbors told police that they saw Shanahan removing items from the apartment and trucking them away, the landlord was arrested and charged with grand larceny and stolen property possession.
Jalal, an accountant who works in Manhattan, says the items, with a total value of $400,000, have not been returned.
"This is something that should not be tolerated, certainly in a place like New York City, where the are very strict protections for tenants," said lawyer Nicholas Moccia.
In October, the Staten Island district attorney's office asked for the appointment of a special prosecutor, because the Acting D.A. knew Shanahan. A judge finally approved the request this week. The reason for the delay is unclear.
Shanahan's defense attorney told NY1 his client is innocent, and then declined further comment.