A group of tenants in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment complex say they are being locked out — by technology.
And now they are suing their landlord for the return of their low-tech keys to the front lobby.
“It’s ridiculous that everyone is spending all this money to go to court just to get a key,” said Mary Beth McKenzie, 72, an artist who has lived in the West 45th St. building for nearly five decades. “For 45 years I’ve had a key. And now, we can’t get keys.”
Instead of keys, the building’s owners have installed a new electronic security system called Latch, which requires a smartphone app to access the building’s lobby, where a newly built elevator and the tenants’ mailboxes are located.
McKenzie’s 93-year-old husband has been a virtual shut-in since the new technology was introduced last year because he doesn’t use a cellphone and has difficulty walking up the three flights of stairs to their apartment, she said. Tenants in the complex at 517-525 West 45th St. don’t need to use the lobby to access the stairwells to the buildings, which are between four and five stories each.
McKenzie and some of the other rent-regulated tenants who are suing for the return of their keys say Latch also includes a GPS function that allows the building’s owners to monitor their movements and even their social media.
The app, which is currently in use in more than 1,000 residential buildings in the city, also comes with an 84-page contract which states that any information collected through the Latch system goes to the building owner, the tenants say.
“It’s a form of harassment,” said McKenzie, whose paintings hang in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. “What happens if your phone dies? I don’t want to be stuck on the street and I don’t want to be surveilled.”
The owners — a limited liability company controlled by Offir Naim and Shai Bernstein — said they installed Latch to provide tenants greater security following a burglary in August 2018, according to court papers. And the GPS function is optional, they said.
The Latch system also allows tenants to buzz someone, such as a courier, into the building without having to be at home, court papers say.
Yeah, this is a phenomenal idea. Especially with the rise of cellphone, mail and package delivery theft going around.