A 67-year-old New York woman has “won” the right to stay in a late friend’s rent-controlled apartment in Long Island — because he adopted her at age 58.
What started as a cat-sitting excursion for twice-divorced Pamela Rose Becker ended with her adoption as “Maria DeTommaso” at age 58 by an ailing former dock worker who she doted on for years. Maria met Nicholas “Uncle Nicky” DeTommaso on the aforementioned favor to a friend who also lived in the apartment building.
All of that changed when a chance meeting with Nicholas turned into something more. “I was living upstairs, and one day around Easter, he called me for breakfast,” DeTommaso told The New York Post. “He had decorated the apartment, and he made french fries and eggs.”
Adopted on Nicholas’ deathbed, Maria now retains the rights not only to his estate and pension, but the rent-controlled two bedroom apartment for which she pays no more than $100 per month. Other apartments in the building go for $1,800.
In February, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal ruled that DeTommaso could not be forcibly evicted and could permanently stay for the current price — agreed upon in 1930. “The reason I won is that I had to face some great obstacles and because I have such a big heart and I’m kind,” she proclaimed.
The owners, however, disagree. They see DeTommaso as a woman who manipulated a vulnerable old man in order to secure his wealth and home, and they want her out. Sara Miros, daughter of the building’s owners, said that they are”frustrated.” Despite their best efforts to extricate her, they “just don’t understand how she was awarded a rent-controlled apartment like this.”
Adding salt to the wound, DeTommaso has used the apartment as a very profitable Airbnb location, allowing people to stay there for about $50 per night. Guest opinions range from “looks crazy, but it has its charm,” to “unhygienic,” characterizing DeTommaso herself as “deceptive.” DeTommaso falsely claims in her ad that the apartment boasts a view of the Manhattan skyline, but the reality is a bit different. “The shower is used by her dogs to poop and piss,” said one guest. Another claimed that “that was the worst place I’ve ever been.”
But regardless of anyone’s opinions, DeTommaso has decided that she will “remain in the apartment for as long as I live.” She is adamant and unmoved. “The day after Nicky died, they’ve done everything to try to evict me,” she said. “I’ve endured a lot of harassment here, but no one can kick me out now.”
And while the owners refuse to cash her checks, she places the monthly pittance in escrow. Whether she is using it as a mini-hotel, tea house, yoga center, or homeless shelter, DeTommaso is there for keeps. “I’m a senior citizen now,” she said, “and I plan to stay in my home forever.”