Yesterday Public Advocate Letitia James released the latest interactive map of the 100 worst landlords in New York City and 20 worst buildings, based on data from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Department of Buildings (DOB).
The Watchlist, started by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in 2010 and updated quarterly, is designed to hold the city’s worst landlords accountable and to empower tenants and advocates, according to James.
The Public Advocate’s office states that the Watchlist includes more details this year on DOB violations and Department of Finance (DOF) tax liens — which can be a sign of buildings in distress. The Public Advocate’s office visited at least one building owned by each of the 100 worst landlords to speak to tenants, take photos, and inspect conditions.
“The Landlord Watchlist has become a critical tool for helping tenants organize against unscrupulous landlords, has assisted with the criminal convictions of some of New York’s worst landlords, and has led to better living conditions for countless New Yorkers. We will never stop fighting for the housing rights of every New Yorker,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.
Flatbush area landlords and buildings:
There are a number of landlords in our area making the list, including the number one worst landlord in NYC based on the data — Harry D Silverstein, who owns eight buildings, five of which span Flatbush, Ditmas Park, Kensington, and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. In his total 575 units, Silverstein wracked up 2,082 violations.
- 261 Lenox Road
- 1130 Nostrand Avenue
- 2005 Albermarle Road
- 605 East 16th Street
- 250 Parkville Avenue
DPC reached out to Silverstein’s office, but they refused to comment.
The Public Advocate’s map is pock-marked with many other neighborhood offenders, including number seven Michael Niamonitakis, landlord at 19 Parade Place. Niamonitakis also appeared in headlines in 2011, when he filed to drop out of the Federal Section 8 housing program for another building on St. Paul’s Place, reports the NY Daily News.
DPC reached out to Niamonitakis’ office but they didn’t have a comment at this time.
Notably absent from this 2016 list is Moshe Piller, the ‘infamous’ landlord of 2010 Newkirk Avenue, who recently faced a tenant-led lawsuit for problems such as collapsed ceilings, sinking floors and charging illegal rent, according to a statement from Legal Services NYC. Piller was number four on the watchlist last year for Worst Landlord in NYC.
[Update: Comment from Flatbush Tenant Coalition] But for tenants at 2010 Newkirk Avenue, landlord problems persist because some repairs act like band-aids over systemic neglect. “Yes, the violations are disappearing and HPD is removing them. But Piller’s just patching things up,” said tenant leader Esther Estime. “People don’t want to spend their whole life arguing and disputing — we want to live our lives. But we are still having problems.”
Aga Trojniak of the Flatbush Tenant Coalition cites many other ways landlords force tenants out of their homes, including court cases, erroneous rent arrears on invoices, repeated buyout offers, and revoking preferential rents. “Our tenant leaders firmly believe that most of this wouldn’t be happening if the rent laws didn’t incentivize it — if the laws didn’t allow huge rent increases in between tenants, we wouldn’t see the displacement we see now in our neighborhood,” said Trojniak.
Criteria and methodology:
According to the Public Advocate, for a landlord to be added to the Watchlist, they must own a building with a minimum number of HPD violations or open DOB complaints per unit. For buildings with fewer than 35 units, there must be an average of at least three open, serious violations or active complaints per unit. For larger buildings with 35 units or more, there must be an average of at least two open, serious violations or active complaints per unit.
For buildings to be eligible for the Watchlist, they must be multi-family rental buildings with three or more units. Co-ops and condominiums are excluded. Read more about the Watchlist methodology here.
“The landlords on the Worst Landlord Watchlist don’t usually make the list because of sloppy management practices or by accident,” said Benjamin Dulchin, Executive Director of Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, Inc. “They make the list because too often they have a strategy to intentionally push tenants out of their affordable apartments in order to drive the rents up quickly.”
However, in 2015 Crain’s New York noted that the Watchlist contained mistakes. For example, in 2014 the list included David Behin, who was upgrading a troubled building he had purchased through a state program. Behin appeared again in the 2015 Watchlist, and was subsequently removed after an inquiry from Crain’s, reports the business news outlet.
For the release of the most recent Watchlist, members of the Flatbush Tenant Coalition stood with PA Letitia James, City Council Member Jumaane Williams and others in Foley Square, demanding more landlord accountability.
To report bad building conditions, call 311, or visit the HPD website. If conditions don’t improve, contact the Public Advocate’s Office at GetHelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov. Read more tenant FAQs here, and learn more about tenant associations on the Flatbush Tenant Coalition website.