East Village

Man Fights COVID in Hospital for 2 Months, Returns Home to Find His NYC Apartment Emptied

A piano and a pet tortoise, whose name means "Mr. Turtle" in Japanese, were some of the only things that were spared — but neighbors are trying to make up for it with their generosity

NBC Universal, Inc.

An East Village man spent nearly two months in the hospital battling COVID-19 — and when he returned home, he found his front door padlocked and his apartment almost completely empty.

Ryo Nagaoka was hospitalized on Jan. 27 with COVID, after he was found on the floor of his fifth-floor walk-up, crying for help. As his condition improved, the 60-year-old was moved to a rehabilitation center to help him regain strength in his legs.

On Wednesday, Nagaoka returned home. When he went to use his key to open his door, it didn't work — the locks had been changed. When the building's superintendent finally got there to open the door, all that was left inside was a piano and a few other things.

"It's like a nightmare, frankly, yeah," he told NBC New York.

Records show that building is owned in part by mega investor Barbara Corcoran as well as former MLB star Alex Rodriguez. In a statement, Corcoran said that "Given how badly Mr. Nagaoka's health had deteriorated, the state of his apartment had become a clear health hazard to the rest of the residents in the building."

A neighbor described seeing crews going through Nagaoka's apartment.

"It looked like stuff going to the dump. It was not things being handled with care," the man who didn't want to be identified said. "I don't think it merits throwing out someone's entire life, with documents and everything."

What was spared is Nagaoka's pet tortoise, who was cared for by the super. The pet, whose name means "Mr. Turtle" in Japanese, was the only other possession returned to Nagaoka. He said they told him they had "no idea" where his other belongings went.

Corcoran's statement also said that the management company fully renovated the apartment, which appeared to be true. A new stove and refrigerator were seen in the kitchen, and Nagaoka said they painted the walls and fixed some holes that were in his ceiling.

However, he doesn't currently have running water in his bathroom, and was told to wait until Monday to use the shower.

Despite his losses, neighbors are making up for it with their generosity, bringing him donated goods. Another neighbor started a GoFundMe page, which has already raised more than $35,000 — with Corcoran herself as one of the top donors.

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