A New York resident of a building partly owned by Alex Rodriguez and Barbara Corcoran found his belongings cleared out of his apartment after returning home from the hospital, a Page Six report has found.
Ryo Nagaoka, 60, who lives at 133 Avenue D in Manhattan’s East Village, came home Wednesday after months spent hospitalized with a severe COVID-19 infection only to discover his apartment had been cleared of all of his belongings save for a grand piano and a pet tortoise named Mr. Tortoise. Copious personal items, including books on classical music with notes that he had taken to advance his skills as a pianist, were gone.
“I was in shock,” Nagaoka told the Post, adding that the loss of the books was particularly painful. “I couldn’t believe it.”
After Nagaoka started asking around, neighbors told him that his lengthy absence led many in the building to assume that he had died from COVID-19 and building management to reportedly clear his belongings. Sierra Zamarripa, the owner of a flower and gift shop next door, started a GoFundMe to help Nagoaka rebuild his life after the illness and the loss of all his personal belongings.
“Yesterday Ryo returned home after hospitalization and months of COVID rehabilitation,” Zamarripa wrote in the description for the fundraiser. “He arrived to the building to find his locks changed and his apartment emptied out except for his piano and tortoise (who was left alone for months). He had worked throughout the pandemic as a restaurant worker.”
First infected in the fall, Nagaoka started growing seriously ill in October. Neighbors had seen him coughing and struggling to get up the steps to his fifth-floor apartment for two weeks before calling an ambulance that Nagoaka refused due to cost. In January, a superintendent entered the apartment due to a water leak and found Nagaoka unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital without his phone or any identification and, six weeks later, neighbors reported seeing junk removal trucks outside the building. Most assumed he had died and, according to the GoFundMe, a friend even set up a memorial outside the building.
Nagaoka, however, reemerged at the apartment wearing hospital clothes this Wednesday. He asked a superintendent to let him in as he had been rushed to the hospital without keys or even a phone. Neighbors were heartened to see him there but later discovered that all his life’s belongings had been cleared.
“He has no shoes, no toothbrush, no documents or ID, no passport, no fridge or stove,” Zamarripa wrote on the GoFundMe. “He needs assistance to get his life back and move forward. What the management has done is so inhumane and I’m pretty sure very illegal.”
By Friday, the fundraiser had raised just over $30,000 of the $50,000 goal as outpourings of support for Nagaoka poured in from all over the city and the country. A representative for Corcoran told the Post that “it had made every effort to locate the Resident including calling local hospitals and contacting Adult Protective Services.” In a later statement provided to Inman, Corcoran explained that, given the severity of Nagaoka’s illness and the disarray of the apartment at the time that he was rushed to the hospital, it had become a “health hazard” to the other residents. A biotech crew was called in after APS contacted local hospitals and failed to track him down.
The superintendent kept the tortoise fed since the winter while the apartment had been kept vacant in wait of more news confirming Nagaoka’s whereabouts. After learning of Nagaoka’s return, the 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 beyond thrilled to discover Mr. Nagaoka has returned! People are very fond of him,” Corcoran told Inman in an email. “In the 24 hours since he’s been in his apartment, the management company (with Mr. Nagaoka’s permission), fully renovated the apartment. This situation was so unfortunate! I’ve made my living in the real estate business and I understand from the landlord and tenant’s side how difficult a situation like this proves to be. It’s great that the press is giving this attention because there are people totally alone and sick with Covid. People usually don’t report them missing. I’m grateful that the press gave attention to how supportive and helpful the neighbors have been to someone who has been sick and struggling on his own.”
Corcoran and A-Rod bought 133 Avenue D together from Michael Cohen, the attorney of former President Donald Trump who is currently serving house arrest for numerous tax and campaign finance violations.
Nagaoka, meanwhile, is adjusting to life after a lengthy illness, losing all his belongings and returning to the building, where he has lived for more than 20 years in a rent-stabilized apartment. Neighbors have also come together to donate spare items such as bedding, clothing, cutlery, kitchen equipment and food.
“Yesterday, I was shocked when I came home and found nothing here,” 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.