2010-09-03 / Top Stories

Public Advocate Launches Worst Landlord List

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio unveiled a new website that exposes the landlords behind some of the city’s most dangerous and dilapidated buildings. The Public Advocate’s NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List is the first resource allowing tenants to look up a current or potential landlord by name and see code violations for other buildings the landlord owns. The Watch List is available online at advocate.nyc. gov/landlord-watchlist.

“The city’s worst landlords can no longer hide from responsibility while their buildings fall into dangerous disrepair,” said de Blasio. “If you’re looking for an apartment, check for your potential landlord on the Watch List first. And if you’re living in a Watch List building, our call-in hotline and field organizers are here to help to you navigate the process of reporting bad conditions and getting them resolved.”

Currently, NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List shows 164 buildings owned by 155 unique landlords. There are approximately 4,500 tenants living in these buildings. The Watch List’s worst offender is landlord Allen Fein, whose property at 1553 Bryant Avenue in the Bronx has racked up 1,049 unresolved violations with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

All entries on the Watch List have a minimum of two significant housing code violations per unit filed by HPD. These include lack of heat or hot water, lead paint, toxic mold, broken pipes and severe damage to the walls, ceilings or floors. Buildings currently on the list were identified based on constituent complaints to the Public Advocate’s office and through HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program. Tenants can submit a new landlord to the list via the website.

3-1-1 receives more calls regarding landlord complaints than any other topic, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. More than 25,000 rentstabilized apartments in New York City have deteriorated visibly since the beginning of the economic downturn. “Landlords have an incredible amount of power in New York City. Too often they abuse it, leaving tenants in unacceptable living conditions. But now New Yorkers can fight back,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin. “By exposing the worst landlords on the web, we can finally empower renters by helping them avoid the worst landlords – and forcing those landlords to improve. I want to thank the Public Advocate for his work on this incredibly promising site, and I look forward to a new day for renters across the city.”

“Landlords need to be held accountable for violating city housing laws, especially when it’s the same landlords committing these infractions. As a former tenant organizer, I am happy that Bill de Blasio is taking the time to shed light on this problem with the New York City Worst Landlords Watch List. New York City residents are entitled to quality housing and they deserve landlords who don’t view the weak punishment that exists for sub-par living conditions as the cost of doing business,“ said Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams.

“Time and time again, we have seen what landlord neglect can do to put ten- ants’ health and safety at risk,” said Chris Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality. “In the past year, there have been numerous instances in Chinatown and Lower East Side; in April, one such neglect resulted in the death of an elderly tenant. Intro 87-A passed by the City Council last week, along with the Public Advocate’s landlord list, will provide more accountability to tenants and tools for advocates to stop predatory landlords.”

“The story of 197 Madison Street and tenants like Mr. Poon highlight the stories of thousands of immigrant residents of New York City who live with hazardous conditions. We know that something has to change when we live in a city that allows for hundreds of buildings to have hundreds of violations that put people’s lives at risk every day,” said CAAAV’s Helena Wong. “CAAAV is glad to hear of Public Advocate de Blasio’s efforts to begin addressing these long-standing systemic issues to allow tenants to live in safe and habitable homes.”

“I live in one of the buildings on NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List,” said MarĂ­a Najera of 1498 DeKalb Ave, a member of the Make the Road NY. “We’ve had a lot of problems with our landlord. He has never wanted to fix anything; he only does anything when the City forces him to. He owns several buildings and they’re all in similar conditions. I’m not surprised that he’s on the list of the worst landlords in New York, but it’s important for this information to be made public so something can be done about it.”

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