NEW YORK — Republican mayoral candidate Fernando Mateo on Wednesday night vowed to protect some landlords that he claimed are being taken advantage of by tenants refusing to pay their rent.
When asked in an interview with Inside City Hall anchor Errol Louis how he would deal with the looming eviction crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, Mateo said he would support some landlords getting the same rights as tenants, claiming some renters have taken advantage of them.
Mateo claimed, without providing evidence, that some New Yorkers have been collecting unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and “actually are making more money than if they’re actually going to work.”
“I know landlords that are poor people, people of color, that are losing their property because some tenants, knowing that they can pay rent, refuse to pay rent,” Mateo said. “But guess what? Every elected official in this city has never been a property owner. They’ve never been a business owner. They’ve never had to get up in the morning, work hard to build a business, and they allow others to take it away. I will not allow that. If you can pay rent, you should be paying rent.”
Mateo did not provide evidence for his claims. The PPP forgivable loan program is not allocated for renters. The program is for small businesses to cover up to eight weeks of payroll costs, mortgage interest, and other expenses — although hedge funds, major restaurant chains, and even Harvard University were able to score some of the initial PPP funds.
Mateo also accused the city of targeting his Inwood restaurant, La Marina, arguing that the city needs a mayor who would prevent harassment like he said his business faced.
The restaurant lost its liquor license in December 2018 and was accused by the state’s liquor authority of multiple health and safety violations. A manager at La Marina was arrested in 2018 and accused of selling drugs inside the restaurant’s premises.
Mateo, though, said his restaurant was “assaulted by every city agency.”
“They came in like gangbusters and they basically made up summonses that we beat in court. 99% of the summonses they issued, the judge threw out because it was for extension cords, it was for hookahs that were locked up in a cage, it was for birthday candles they said were fireworks, which is crazy. We were set up,” Mateo said. “And what happened to me, I will not allow for it to happen to any business owner. People are afraid to invest in New York because any city agency can use any excuse to shut you down and take your life away in a minute. That will not happen under Mayor Mateo.”
Mateo criticized the employee who was arrested, but said the arrest should not have impacted his business.
"Who can control one employee, out of 300-plus employees, that decides to go rogue and sell drugs?" Mateo said. "This guy should be prosecuted, he should be put away, but we should never have lost our liquor license."
NY1 reached out to City Hall to respond to the allegations but did not hear back by the time of this story’s publication.
Mateo also told NY1 public safety is an instrumental focus of his, hammering Mayor Bill de Blasio’s record on crime during his time in office.
“Public safety is number one. No one’s going to come back to New York City if there’s no public safety,” he said. “Bodega owners are suffering the consequences. Cab drivers are suffering the consequences. And every elected official that is in public office today has sat back and done absolutely nothing to combat the mayor and what he’s done during these last seven years.”
Mateo has worked for decades advocating for taxi drivers and bodega owners, but he didn’t register as a New York City voter until last October and mostly lives in his house in Westchester.
In the past, he’s fundraised for politicians like George Pataki, Michael Bloomberg, George W. Bush, and de Blasio. One of his Republican primary opponents, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, has already attacked Mateo for his fundraising for de Blasio.
“I certainly say to Fernando, 'Excuse me, but you made illegal campaign contributions to Bill de Blasio,'" Sliwa said in one interview.
He was never charged with a crime, but Mateo was involved in a straw donor scheme. He has blamed de Blasio for it, saying the current mayor is corrupt.
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This story includes additional reporting from Juan Manuel Benítez.
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