‘Serial grifter’ avoids eviction from woman’s West Village home: suit

A long-running battle between a West Village woman and the squatter she can’t shake took a stunning twist Saturday when a city judge ordered her to keep living with the alleged tormenter.

Barrow Street resident Heidi Russell says short-term renter Kate Gladstone is a “serial grifter” who took over her living room and bathroom, spritzed Russell with cleaning chemicals, threatened her and refused to pay rent for months, according to a lawsuit.

“This is horrid! Unconscionable!!” fumed Russell of the judge’s decision.

Russell claims tenant Gladstone would sit in the dark and record her when she came home, and accost her if she tried to use the common areas, leading Russell to flee her two-bedroom home during the day to avoid her.

“She’s turned me into a homeless person during the pandemic,” said Russell. “I’m out on the street, with my mask and my old dog in a carriage. It’s just taken over our lives.”

Gladstone, a self-described documentary filmmaker, narrowly ducked being booted from Russell’s home in March after COVID-19 concerns put a stop to evictions, including her own court-ordered ouster. A top state judge then extended the ban till October.

Gladstone stayed until last month, when she left for 17 days without a word, prompting Russell to change the locks, Russell said.

When Gladstone came back unannounced and couldn’t get in, she dashed to housing court, claiming she’d been illegally locked out, documents show.

Judge Marc Finkelstein noted in his August decision that Gladstone could have acted with “greater kindness, sensitivity and cooperation” toward Russell, but nevertheless agreed to restore the accused squatter to the home, noting only city marshals can legally remove her.

Gladstone is now set to return Sunday, after another judge confirmed Finkelstein’s decision, and Russell is fearful.

“If she comes back in here she’s never going to leave,” Russell told The Post.

The saga began in June 2019, when Russell and her partner, Valentina Bajada, decided to rent their spare bedroom while Bajada was on an extended international trip.

They offered it to Gladstone, who had stayed with them once before, for $2,000 a month.

But when Russell needed the room for her mom, who was set to undergo surgery, she asked Gladstone to leave by June 30, 2019.

“She flew off the handle, yelling, ‘No, no, impossible, you’re going to ruin my life. … I’m not leaving,’” Russell recalled.

The incident launched a barrage of bizarre and troubling behavior, Russell claims in Manhattan court papers.

Gladstone installed her daughter in the bedroom and slept in the living room, the papers say.

She accused Russell of scaring her kid, allowed her dog to relieve itself in the apartment, stole food, and accosted Russell whenever she tried to use the bathroom or kitchen, Russell told The Post.

Gladstone threatened to sue and piled boxes of her belongings in the living room, said Russell, who filed a lawsuit against Gladstone in Manhattan Federal Court and is appealing the city Housing Court decision allowing Gladstone to return.

The lodger also sprayed a cleaning product until door handles and doors were dripping with the liquid, charges Russell.

Russell resorted to using the bathroom at friends’ homes and in nearby laundry rooms, and wore headphones when she came in to avoid talking to Gladstone or her daughter, she claims.

“Once the pandemic hit, it got worse,” said Russell, claiming Gladstone would spray cleaner at her as she walked through the 650-square-foot apartment.

Cops and local officials have allegedly ignored Russell’s pleas to get Gladstone out, Russell said.

It’s at least the third time the 44-year-old Gladstone, a Pittsburgh native who according to court papers also uses the name Katherine Klein, has allegedly overstayed her welcome.

Victims and court records portray her as a menace in the West Village, where she’s been accused of squatting, harassing landlords, and stiffing them on rent.

She’s been arrested twice, once for allegedly stalking and also for forgery and grand larceny after she allegedly stole her ex-girlfriend’s credit cards to pay for hotel rooms in the area. She’s due in court in September on the charges.

Gladstone, who posted a behind the scenes clip of Bill Clinton on Vimeo she captioned, “My day with Bill & Tony & Sara,” was no star to Matt Titus, the celeb matchmaker who rented her his 400-square-foot studio apartment on West 13th Street in 2017.

“She’s just absolutely one of the most vile, terrible human beings I have ever encountered,” said Titus, who accused Gladstone of squatting with her child in his apartment for months in 2017, ultimately leaving him $20,000 in debt and ruining his credit.

“It’s terrible,” said Titus, whose ordeal was described in Russell’s Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit.

In addition to squatting in Titus’ apartment, the divorced mom allegedly squatted for months in the Christopher Street home of her ex-girlfriend, refusing to leave until she was paid $20,000, according to court records.

Russell, an executive assistant at a private equity firm in Midtown who got laid off last year, said with the state eviction ban now in effect until Oct. 1, she doesn’t know what to do.

“No one wants to help me. I’m scared for my safety. I’m financially ruined. They say, ‘Just wait for the ban to be lifted.’ Well, they keep extending it,” she said.

Bajada has steered clear of the co-op, which she owns, in part because of Gladstone’s presence, the couple charge in legal papers.

Gladstone denied the allegations.

“I hope you know better than to think that,” she said when reached by The Post, before adding, “I can’t even comment.”

Russell said her fight should serve as a warning to others in the area, noting Gladstone’s affection for the posh West Village.

“I don’t know if she would take free housing, because she wants to live in the village. She wants the prestige, she wants her child to go to school here,” Russell said.

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