MURDER AT THE MALIBU

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A woman was murdered at the Malibu Hotel on the Upper West Side on Wednesday night, six months after residents and neighbors had met with police about security concerns at the building.

Police found Lynda Ford, 60, lying on her bed in Room 55-6 with her hands tied behind her back and a sweater wrapped around her neck like a noose. She had been living at the single-room occupancy hotel on Broadway since September, according to one detective on the case, and had been placed there by the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration.

As of Friday afternoon, police officials had made no arrests and were investigating the situation.

“We have no leads yet,” said one detective, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We figure it might have been someone she knew, someone who came into her room, started bullshitting, and then maybe that person asked for money and things maybe went foul.”

On Friday, hotel residents and their neighbors were calling the incident tragic but not surprising given the litany of complaints they have made about shoddy security, drug use and living conditions over the last year. “Nobody can really say [Ford’s death] was an awful shocking surprise,” said James Muessig, a local tenant advocate. “The city had good enough warning about the Malibu’s security problems. They did nothing and now there’s a body.”

A number of residents and neighbors have expressed concerns about the building’s management since HASA began using the Malibu to house its homeless clients with AIDS in April 2002.

Frank Sobrino, a spokesperson for HASA, would not comment for this story.
Some say there have been improvements in recent months, though. Over the past six months, the Manhattan’s District Attorney’s Office has met with Malibu owner Hank Fried about a number of community complaints. “He’s been very cooperative,” said DA spokesperson Barbara Thompson, who lives near the hotel. “The security there has improved significantly.” She said Fried had hired more guards and now has them working 24-hour shifts.

Tenants see it differently. “The guards are at the desk only,” said Michael Ouellette. “It’s very rare that we see them in the halls or patrolling the building.”

Malibu manager Glenn Westerlind was out of town on vacation on Friday, according to the hotel’s receptionist, and attempts to reach Fried were unsuccessful. In an interview with Fried last fall in the lobby of his residence at Trump Palace, the SRO owner said he was looking to hire a new team of security guards for the Malibu.

“I’m just a novice,” Fried said about housing homeless people with AIDS. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”