Queens City Councilmember Vickie Paladino is perhaps best known for being temporarily barred from the city council chambers because she refused to disclose her vaccination status to the City. ("I don't need to show you my papers. This is not Nazi Germany," she once said.) Or maybe you recognize her from the December 2020 video where, in defiance of COVID-19 regulations, she led an umasked conga line at an indoor party of Queens Republicans. Or you might recall her 2018 state senate campaign, in which her social media feeds were described as a "cesspool of bigotry and paranoia." More recently, Paladino waged a crusade against Drag Story Hour, calling it a form of "grooming."
On Monday, Paladino used her platform to tweet a video in which she confronts an occupant of what she called "a known squatter house" in the Queens neighborhoodCollege Point. In the video, Paladino deems the house a "disgrace," and insinuates that the man is a drug dealer. The man tells her to "go fuck yourself," and blows weed smoke in her direction.
The video has gone somewhat viral, in part because it appeals equally to the simmering grievances of certain homeowners, and because people enjoy seeing Paladino get a taste of her own medicine.
After being told to “go fuck yourself,” Paladino tells the man, "You're threatening an elected official.”
"I don't give a fuck who you are," the man replies.
"The newspapers will be here," Paladino vows.
On Tuesday afternoon, the news media did in fact come calling, but Paladino wasn't talking. Her office did not respond to our telephone and email messages.
Hell Gate spoke to the man in the video, who did not give his name and did not want to be quoted. None of the man's neighbors we spoke to mentioned anything about drugs (the NYPD has not returned our request for comment). But they did say that the man had been living at the house with his family for many years.
A Zillow listing for the home states, "This is an AS-IS foreclosed/REO property. Do not disturb occupants or walk on property.” The listing also notes the property is currently “occupied.” The listed real estate agent for the property did not respond to our request for comment, but public records show thatWells Fargo currently holds the mortgage. Foreclosures have quadrupled in Queens this year, and first-time foreclosures are up nearly 146 percent citywide.
According to City records, the home has been in foreclosure for years, and has racked up more than $200,000 in fines and penalties issued by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and the Department of Buildings, due to structural deficiencies that have not been fixed. Councilmember Paladino told the man in the video that he had received "an eviction notice," but we did not see one on the property, just two vacate orders from the DOB—one for the garage in the back, and another for the second floor of the home, meaning that the first floor is still technically habitable.
We rang numerous Ring doorbells and spoke to some neighbors (none,however,wanted to give their names). A person next door to the house in questionemerged from his backyard, and said he had never had a problem with the home or its occupants. "It hasn't been an issue at all for me really," the man said.
Another person across the street also said he had no troubles with the people living in the house. "It's not bothering me. He's been there for years," said the neighbor, who had lived on the block since 1987. As we spoke, a group of journalists from CBS2 sat in their idling vehicles and waited for the man in the video to reappear.
Only one man had anything negative to say. "The house is unstable. There's repeat violations, piss poor attitude," a next door neighbor told us when we asked about the video. When we asked if he had summoned the council member to the home, he merely replied, "My wife."
The man added, "There's a lot more going on and I'm trying to be extremely respectful about it." We asked whether he believed Paladino had handled the situation well, and whether it was worth it to put one of her constituents on blast just so she could rack up a bunch of likes and retweets from people calling the man either a "dead beat" or a "hero." He declined to comment further. "I don't wanna say something that could be harmful."
Max Rivlin-Nadler contributed reporting to this story.
[Update 8:30 p.m.] Councilmember Paladino tweeted our story, despite not returning our requests for comment. She even tweeted a video of our legs and voice.