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A few New York City residents are able to breathe a little easier in April.
Landlord Mario Salerno waved rent for the entire month for his more than 200 tenants amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the shuttering of many businesses and caused an unprecedented spike in unemployment around the country.
Salerno, who owns 80 apartments, told Gothamist that before he made the decision to waive rent, he had received phone calls from many of his tenants worried about coming up with the money.
New York City was hit especially hard with shelter-in-place mandates, and the closures of all bars and restaurants to dine-in patrons. Last week alone, unemployment insurance claims surged 520 percent in the city. And throughout the week, the New York State Department of Labor received more than 1.73 million calls and nearly 2.3 million website visits.
But Salerno, a 59-year-old Brooklyn native, reportedly told his tenants “just relax, don’t panic.”
“Just make sure you have food on the table. Take care of your loved ones, your family. If they have any pets make sure the pets got food,” Salerno told his renters, Gothamist reported. “As far as me, God is good to me. I’m successful.”
Salerno posted a sign notifying the renters of April's waived rent — delivering much-needed relief to the roughly 30 percent of tenants who took him up on the offer, he said.
This gesture of goodwill isn't out of character for the longtime landlord. Resident Robin Simmons, a fitness instructor who has “lost a lot of work in the past 3 weeks,” told Gothamist that Salerno “dresses up as Santa every year and gives presents to neighborhood kids.”
Salerno is not the first NYC landlord to cut his tenants some slack during the widespread outbreak. Sauce Pizzeria was given three months of free rent and received a $20,000 donation from its landlord A&E Real Estate Management after the management company found out the pizzeria had been donating 400 pizzas, per day, to city hospitals.