A New Yorker who lives in a building partly owned by Alex Rodriguez and Barbara Corcoran found his belongings removed from his apartment on his return from hospital.
Ryo Nagaoka, 60, who lives at 133 Avenue D in Manhattan’s East Village, came home Wednesday after being hospitalized for months with a severe COVID-19 infection, a pet turtle named Mr. Tortoise. Numerous personal items, including classical music books with notes that he had taken to improve his skills as a pianist, had disappeared.
“I was shocked,” Nagaoka told the Post, adding that the loss of the books was particularly painful. “I could not believe it.”
After Nagaoka started inquiring, the neighbors told him that his long absence led many in the building to believe that he had died of COVID-19 and that building management had allegedly cleared his belongings. Sierra Zamarripa, the owner of a flower and gift shop next door, launched a GoFundMe to help Nagoaka rebuild his life after falling ill and losing all of his personal belongings.
“Yesterday, Ryo returned home after a hospital stay and months of COVID rehabilitation,” wrote Zamarripa in the description for the fundraiser. “He arrived at the building and found his locks changed and his apartment emptied except for his piano and turtle (who had been alone for months). He had worked as a restaurant clerk during the pandemic. “
Nagaoka was infected for the first time in the fall and became seriously ill in October. The neighbors had seen him cough for two weeks and struggle to climb the stairs to his apartment on the fifth floor before calling an ambulance, which Nagoaka refused on cost grounds. In January, a superintendent entered the home due to a water leak and found Nagaoka unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital without his phone or ID, and six weeks later neighbors reported seeing garbage trucks outside the building. Most assumed he had died, and according to GoFundMe, a friend even erected a memorial outside the building.
However, Nagaoka reappeared at home that Wednesday wearing hospital clothes. He asked a superintendent to let him in as he had been taken to the hospital without a key or a phone. The neighbors were encouraged to see him there, but later found that all his belongings had been cleared.
“He has no shoes, no toothbrush, no documents or IDs, no passport, no refrigerator or stove,” wrote Zamarripa on GoFundMe. “He needs help to get his life back and move forward. What management has done is so inhuman and I’m pretty sure it’s very illegal. “
By Friday, the fundraiser had raised just over $ 30,000 of the $ 50,000 goal when support for Nagaoka came in from across the city and across the country. A Corcoran representative told the Post that “every effort was made to locate the resident, including calling local hospitals and contacting adult protection services.” In a later statement to Inman, Corcoran stated that the severity of Nagaoka’s illness and the disorder in the apartment at the time he was hospitalized had become a “health risk” to other residents. A biotech crew was called in after APS contacted local hospitals and failed to track him down.
The superintendent had kept the turtle fed since winter while the apartment had been kept empty for further news confirming Nagaoka’s whereabouts. After hearing of Nagaoka’s return, management company H&H Ventures made an offer to renovate the apartment and is now proceeding with Nagaoka’s permission.
“Everyone in the building is overjoyed to discover that Mr. Nagaoka has returned! People love him very much, ”Corcoran Inman said in an email. “In the 24 hours since he was at his home, the management company (with Mr. Nagaoka’s permission) has completely renovated the home. This situation was so unfortunate! I made my living in the real estate business and I understand from the landlord and tenant side how difficult such a situation can turn out to be. It’s great that the press is getting this attention because there are people who are completely alone and sick with Covid. People don’t usually report them missing. I am grateful that the press paid attention to how supportive and helpful the neighbors were for someone who was sick and struggled alone. “
Corcoran and A-Rod jointly bought 133 Avenue D from Michael Cohen, attorney for former President Donald Trump, who is currently serving house arrest for numerous tax and campaign finance violations.
Meanwhile, Nagaoka gets used to life after a long illness, loses all his belongings and returns to the building in which he has lived in a rent-stabilized apartment for more than 20 years. The neighbors have also teamed up to donate replacement items such as bedding, clothing, cutlery, kitchen appliances, and groceries.
“Yesterday I was shocked when I came home and found nothing,” Nagaoka told the Post. “But today I’m shocked again because so many people are trying to help me.”
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a statement from Barbara Corcoran.
Email Veronika Bondarenko