Many of his tenants worried about their next paycheck, having lost their jobs due to the lockdown that has been ongoing for several weeks.
"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," author Charles Dickens had said. The global health crisis has caused the world to come to a standstill and in such tough times, the goodness in people's hearts is showing through. Acts of kindness by random strangers like buying groceries for older adults who can't step out of the house while they are social distancing, or applauding healthcare workers for their sacrifice and fortitude during this trying time.
One Brooklyn landlord wanted to do his bit for his renters so he waived off the rent for April 2020 and instead asked them to take care of themselves. Instead of worrying about paying him in a time when many people are losing their jobs, he wanted them to have a breather. This landlord let the rent go for 200 of his tenants in April.
"I want everybody to be healthy. That's the whole thing," Mario Salerno told NBC New York. The 59-year-old man, who owns some 80 apartments across Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, took the concerns of his tenants into account when they said they were worried about paying rent as they lost their jobs. He was concerned that his tenants wouldn't have money for essentials after paying him rent and he cared more about them being able to keep themselves fed.
According to the NewYorkTimes, he posted a notice outside the 18 apartment buildings he owns saying, "STAY SAFE, HELP YOUR NEIGHBORS & WASH YOUR HANDS!!!" In a city where there are thousands of renters who survive paycheck to paycheck, this is a great act of kindness. "I told them just to look out for your neighbor and make sure that everyone has food on their table," Mario said.
"I didn’t think it was much on a person like me, who god was good to, to help them all out," he told local Brooklyn website Greenpointers.com, who first reported his story. Asked how his tenants feel, he said, "They’re all very appreciative. I told them ‘make sure you help your neighbor.'"
Mario Salerno has given so much to the Williamsburg community. He's known for so many kindnesses and supporting the youth, the elderly, NYPD, area churches and local school teams. This is his latest act of kindness during these difficult times. Thank you! https://t.co/HduBgYQuDd— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) April 8, 2020
Since New York is one of the hotspots for the virus, he was asked if he's taking extra care at his 18 buildings to stop it from spreading. He said his team is vigilant and prompt with cleaning. "Me, as a landlord, I make sure I clean the buildings daily, I send my men there every night and we make sure we clean and sterilize for everyone’s safety," he added.
This Brooklyn landlord, Mario Salerno, is also the owner of the local car mechanic “Salerno’s Autobody” in my Brooklyn neighborhood. Truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. He & his family make everyone feel like family. This is not surprising. https://t.co/Bs34tZeecZ— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) April 3, 2020
One of his tenants, Paul Gentile, told the NewYorkTimes that Mario's decision to waive rent for April did surprise him but he was not shocked. “It has alleviated a huge amount of stress that I have been having with the unemployment system in the state," Paul added. He said that in the four years he has lived in the apartment, Mario has been a model landlord, ensuring that emergencies were fixed almost immediately. He said that there had been a water leak on the ceiling of his apartment and Mario got it fixed, patched, and painted in a few hours' time.
“My Catholic faith brought it upon me to make this decision. It’s the value of a life, and I pray everyday for the Good Lord to conquer this vicious virus.”— National Catholic Register (@NCRegister) April 6, 2020
--Mario Salerno #coronavirus #PrayTogetherhttps://t.co/isarN0Jikn
And Paul isn't the only tenant who sings Mario's praises. Another tenant, Kaitlyn Guteski, said she's been out of work since she had to shut down her hair salon. "He's Superman. He's a wonderful man," Kaitlyn told NBC New York. "It's a game-changer."
Mario made this offer not just to the residents but also to those who rented his commercial spaces. And because he made a gesture of kindness this big, there were many, who were fortunate enough to not lose their jobs, who not only offered to pay him for April and but also offered to cover their out-of-work roommates' rent, according to Greenpointers.com.
Before the crisis, Mario Salerno has helped me & @SkeeterNYC out in so many small ways. He’s saved us a few times. Not for press. That’s just how he is. Glad everyone is getting to see it. https://t.co/iFstRMqW9f— Geoffrey Rickly (@GeoffRickly) April 3, 2020
Mario is aware that he will lose thousands in rent but he said he was not worried. He only wanted the people in his community to take care of themselves and each other. He also hoped that other landlords would follow suit in this difficult time. He hopes that the entire city could come together to help each other and show some kindness during this time.
“If everyone could stay home, take care each other; whoever is fortunate to work, please try to help the person who can’t put food on the table," he said.