Tuesday, November 24, 2015

AmNY Express: Meet one of New York's worst landlords

It's been almost two years since the landlord has made repairs at 308 Harman St. in Bushwick. Can New York City do anything to fix that?

Sometimes landlords get busy. But 308 Harman St. is in dire need of repairs: It has windows that don't close. A lock held together by a No. 2 pencil. Apartments without overhead lights. Vacant units that are home only to rats.
All of it was enough to land Iskyo Aranov, the landlord of record, a spot on Public Advocate Letitia James' list of the 100 Worst Landlords in New York City. Specifically, he's number 62.

Wall of shame

In 2010, then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a slightly more be-whiskered version of his future self, launched the list as a way to put some pressure on negligent landlords who failed to reform, year after year.
These are not your everyday hard-to-track-down-when-the-toilet-backs-up landlords. It takes some work to make the list. A landlord is only added if his or her building has an average of three or more open, serious violations or complaints per unit for small buildings, two per unit for larger ones. This includes such luxuries as removing vermin and continual access to heat and hot water.
Some of last year's worst offenders have reformed slightly — two from the Top 10 have dropped off the list entirely, and four others have moved out of the Top 10 after improvements, according to James' office.

In Bushwick . . .

Myra Cruz lives at 308 Harman with her two children in a rent-stabilized apartment. "I've been living without light for one year," Cruz said in Spanish during a tour of the building with James.
The landlord has been trying to buy out tenants for as little as $7,000, and hasn't made a single repair since he bought the building in January 2014, according to Samuel Chiera, a representative for the tenants from Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation. Attempts to reach the landlord were not successful.
The building has more than 200 open violations on file. Cruz, who has lived in the building for 22 years, has no cabinets under her sink. The pipes are hidden by a plastic bag. That's better than an apartment downstairs, though, where there is no sink and dishes pile up to be washed in the bathtub.

Taking action

Some residents of the building have formed a tenant association and have taken the landlord to court to place the building in the hands of an independent administrator. This is one of the benefits tracking the list, which shows multiple buildings owned by landlords and helps tenants to band together.
A City Council bill to be introduced today by James would codify the spirit of the list, requiring the city to post information about the identity of building owners, what other buildings they own and existing violations.
The tenants of 308 Harman will have their day in court, though it will take some time to fix the holes in the ceiling. Violations have been on the rise in the building since 2012, as with many of the landlords at the top of the 2015 list.
Maybe this year, they'll be embarrassed enough to fix a window or two.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe at amny.com/amexpress.

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