A downtown couple runs an errand—and vanishes

The last time anyone saw Camden Sylvia and her boyfriend, Michael Sullivan (left), the couple was returning a video to a rental store near City Hall.

It was the evening of November 7, 1997. After that, they pretty much vanished into thin air.

Sylvia, 36, and Sullivan, 54, both artists, shared a loft in a shabby 1840s fifth-floor walk-up at 76 Pearl Street for years.

Neighbors suspected their disappearance may have had to do with the fact that earlier in the day, Sylvia gave the building’s owner, Richard Rodriguez, a letter stating that unless he turned up the heat, tenants were going on a rent strike.

Rodriguez and the couple were embroiled in an ongoing battle over building conditions and rent, which was stabilized at $300 a month.

Police focused on Rodriguez. They searched the Hudson River, and they brought scent-sniffing dogs to his property upstate. But there was nothing to link him to their disappearance.

Rodriguez served a few years in state prison for tax evasion. But he was paroled in 2002, and though Sylvia and Sullivan are long presumed dead, no trace of them has ever been found.

[Right: 76 Pearl Street today, no longer owned by Rodriguez]

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8 Responses to “A downtown couple runs an errand—and vanishes”

  1. Beth Says:

    Wow, the blasts from the pasts you remind us of! I was working in an office on Wall Street when this happened and I used to walk past this building. What really did happen to these two? I suppose we’ll never know.

  2. Upstate Ellen Says:

    How sad for their families and friends.

  3. Lisa Says:

    When landlords are naturally deemed the most-likely-suspect (when tenants mysteriously disappear), you’ve gotta wonder if NY rent laws have created some rather *perverse* incentives.

  4. Ellis Says:

    what nerve to demand anything of a landlord when paying only $300 in rent. In general i’m very pro-tenant.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Come on, Ellis– get with the program! It’s the inalienable of every New Yorker to pay WW2-era rents.

  6. Lisa Says:

    “inalienable right”…. meant to write.

  7. Sam Says:

    Ahahahahaha, pieces of shit, that’s what happens when you fuck with building owners, you tell us to maintain the building, give heat, do this, do that, all while making it illegal to charge a reasonable rent. They’re probably in a block of cement at the bottom of the river.

  8. camille Says:

    tenants have the right to heat,landlords should get fair rent,notice I didnt say market value…..If only the world operated sensibly and was fair to all….I knew camden as cammy in grade school and had hoped this was just a rumer….nothing justifies the taking of these two peoples lives…..im sick with the horror and violence people perpetrate upon one another….

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