Archive for the tag 'landlords'

Source: whatleydude via Flickr

We all know that looking for new apartments is a horrible soul-deadening experience. Just ask Sheepshead Bites editor Ned Berke. Finding a decent new apartment is a maddening, expensive affair that usually ends with you crammed into a closet with three strange roommates who never clean out the drain in the bathtub. The task has proven especially difficult in recent years as the apartment vacancy rate has fallen to the lowest level since 2001, according to a report by WKZO.

Good apartments are always hard to find and with the economy being terrible for a long time now, more people than ever are renting instead of buying. While this has been a boon to those who own the apartment buildings, the bad economy, which has kept wages stagnant, might finally change the equation.

With people unable to keep up with the rate of inflation, landlords might finally be forced to cap their practice of raising rents every year as a matter of practice.

“At some point, you can’t keep pushing these rent increases on since the majority of the tenants, if they’re not getting income gains to keep up with that, it’s just not sustainable,” Reis economist Ryan Severino told WKZO.

As someone who is also looking for an affordable new apartment, writing all those words just made me sad.

The toxic mixture of flooded storm waters and oil at 301 Oriental Blvd. Photo by Susan Vosburgh

Last month we reported on the slow pace many landlords were taking in helping their tenants return their Sandy damaged buildings back to working order, focusing in on a building located at 301 Oriental Boulevard that was plagued by a wretched smell emanating from its basement. Still cursed with the menacing stench, the tenants of 301 Oriental Boulevard are taking their landlord to court, according to a story in the New York Daily News.

The tenants of the smelly Manhattan Beach building took their landlord to court on Tuesday telling housing court Judge Kevin McClanahan that the fumes have made them sick.

“This is a life-threatening situation,” Victoria Shklovsky told the Daily News. Shklovsky’s 79-year-old mother Nadezhda has been suffering from coughing, hypertension and shortness of breath, all a result from the fumes according to her mother’s doctor. Victoria also wasn’t spared the hazardous fumes, suffering inflamed eyes, vomiting and headaches. Both Victoria and her mother have temporarily left the building for fresher confines.

According to the Daily News, Judge McClanahan took a stern stand, telling the tenants that for their case to succeed, they’d have to have expert proof of the toxicity of the fumes. The Judge reminded the tenants that, “Your suppositions, even your fears, are not evidence,” and urged them to subpoena the tests the Environmental Protection Agency conducted on the building. Addressing Shklovsky’s claims directly, the Judge said, “A medical doctor is not an agency that can go onsite and determine danger.”

For his part, landlord Tomas Rosenthal’s lawyer, Avi Peison, claimed the landlord had already spent over $100,000 on repairs, having recently restored electricity and heat earlier this month. He also noted the difficulty of expediting speedy repairs in light of the building’s Zone A location.

The story has drawn the attention of local political leaders. Ari Kagan, 45th Assembly District Leader, came to court to support the tenants, and told the Daily News that, “I call it the building of horrors. I would encourage the landlord and managing agent to sleep one night there.”

Source: Google Maps

Continuing our coverage of landlords who have been less than responsive to tenants devastated by Hurricane Sandy, The New York Post highlights the plight of those located at the 2101 Avenue Z. The apartment building still doesn’t have heat or electricity since Sandy struck late in October.

Residents of the building, which include young children and the elderly, have taken to pasting signs in the windows that read, “Help!” and “We Have Rights.”

The tenants of the neglected apartment building blame their landlord, Leonid Rubanov.

“Our landlord came the next day [after Sandy] to collect the rent. He said, ‘I need the money to do the repairs.’ Then three, four days went by, he doesn’t pick up the phone, he doesn’t do anything,” Alex Kudryavtsev, 26, who lives in the building with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. “We went over to his house in Manhattan Beach and the repairs on his house were already under way,” he said. “Instead of putting the money toward our residence, he decided his house was more important.”

The landlord, Leonid Rubanov, declined to answer the door at his lavish home, adorned with wrought ironwork, silk drapes, columns and ornamental flourishes.

“If you’re from the newspaper, you have to call the Department of Buildings and HPD. It’s a bad idea to come to my home,” he told The Post, referring to the city’s Department of Housing Preservations and Development.

HPD has issued several violations to Rubanov, and sources said more inspections are expected today.

Sandy has apparently put the spotlight on some of our local slumlords. We hope Rubanov gets his things in order as it has been over three weeks and temperatures continue to decrease.

Parts of 301 Oriental Blvd remains filled with a toxic oil-water mixture. (Photo by Susan Vosburgh)

Some of Southern Brooklyn’s landlords appear to be slow to help in fighting for their tenants’ rights to heat, hot water and electricity, and may even be adding obstacles to the mix.

Take, for instance, the case of 301 Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, which we told you about last week. A horrible stench has haunted the building for weeks, ever since Hurricane Sandy flooded the basement, causing water to mix with barrels of oil in storage. Residents complain the landlord has done little to rectify the situation, and many are concerned about their health as headaches and fatigue have set in.

“It’s been a month, going on a month, and we still have no utilities,” said 20-year-resident Susan Vosburgh. “Apparently there’s still oil in the building. I doubt any utilities will touch us because it has to be safe when they come in.”

Although pumping has already occurred, Vosburgh said the unskilled migrant workers the landlord hires keep missing rooms filled with the toxic oil-water mixture, and just this morning returned for the umpteenth time to pump out the elevator pit. On their first attempt at draining the basement, she claims they illegally pumped the hazardous materials into the street.

“The migrant workers he gets for like a dollar an hour, they forget this room and that room,” Vosburgh said. “I just want this cleaned up, we’re breathing the fumes.”

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Bryan Eisenberg thought things were getting better after he brought the fight with his landlord online. After Sheepshead Bites’ report about his website and his tensions with his allegedly abusive landlord, other news outlets picked it up. Government agencies started paying a little more attention, and the landlord, NYPD officer Mehtab Malhi, was shamed into making improvements (though he did threaten a lawsuit).

The late-night banging and doorbell ringing at 2842 Brigham Street stopped for several days. The garbage was cleaned up and the roach problem eliminated. And the obstacles barricading their basement were removed.

But that didn’t last very long.

We checked in with Eisenberg, and he and his blog indicate that whatever strides they had made in their battle with the landlord have mostly been undone.

Eisenberg claims the Malhis have engaged in an illegal eviction, taking their property and throwing it outside. They’ve also bolted the second egress from the apartment, creating a fire hazard. And, last but not least, the ringing – oh the ringing! – has returned.

Just this morning, Eisenberg updated the blog detailing last night’s ringing. He wrote, “Between the bell ringing and their floor banging I’ve been up since 2am, my 2 year old has been up and fully awake from about 3am and my 10 year old is up as well.”

But this time he’s got a little bit more than just his word – which Malhi called into question in our last report. This time, Eisenberg caught the ringing on video. The video, above, was taken by a small camera that monitored the front door. Here’s Eisenberg’s narration:

 Pay attention right under the tree, in the white space is our house number and right below that is the bell. You’ll see twice the door on the left open, the the screen door opens just a bit and the hand creeps out to disturb our sleep. The first time is about 17 seconds into the recording.

2842 Brigham Street, as drawn by Eisenberg's 6-year-old.

A lesson for landlords: if you’re going to pick a fight with a tenant, don’t do it with a social media guru of international acclaim. They might just air your dirty laundry.

That’s the lesson being learned by the property owners of 2842 Brigham Street – an address that may well live on in infamy thanks to a new website bearing its name:

Founded by Sheepshead Bay resident Bryan Eisenberg, the newly-launched website chronicles his family’s battle with landlord Mehtab Malhi. Malhi bought the house in October and, according to Eisenberg, it’s been constant clashes since then. To top it all off, Eisenberg said Malhi has attempted to enforce his tyrannical rule by abusing his power as a police officer, calling in favors from colleagues.

But Eisenberg’s got a few friends of his own. A best-selling author of books about online marketing and social media, Eisenberg sought to harness the power of the web to bring attention to his cause. After launching the blog, he broadcast its posts to his network of thousands on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

“The number one reason I chose to bring this online is that there is little support online or anywhere for tenants who live in two-family homes,” said Eisenberg. “Sheepshead Bay is full of these, as you know. I want to create a resource for people who may go through this and don’t know what to do.”

Find out what Eisenberg said the issues are, what’s being done about it, and what the landlord said for himself.

With the weather getting a bit nippy, it’s time to remind landlords and their tenants that “Heat Season” began on Friday, October 1. That means if you’re a tenant, you’re entitled to a warm, well-heated dwelling – and if you’re landlord ain’t shelling out for it, you better take some steps to secure your rights.

Heat Season runs between October 1 and May 31, and building owners are required to provide tenants with heat under the following conditions:

  • Between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature is required to be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit; and,
  • Between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, if the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees, the inside temperature is required to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tenants who are cold in their apartments should first attempt to notify the building owner, managing agent or superintendent. If heat is not restored, the tenant should call the City’s Citizen Service Center at 311 (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK). For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115. The Center is open 24-hours a day, seven-days a week.

If a building owner fails to provide heat and hot water during the winter or has a serious history of flagrantly disregarding obligations to provide service to tenants, Housing Preservation and Development’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) may sue the building owner in Housing Court.

For more information, visit the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s website.

So after we posted yesterday about Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s new watch-list of lousy landlords, and pointed out that Sheepshead Bay was in the clear, we got a call from his office. It turns out that those outer-outerborough neighborhoods aren’t as safe as it seems, and we may indeed have our own flat fuehrers.

According to the de Blasio staffer, the watchlist does not include every landlord or building that would qualify, just the ones that the office was made aware of. We still don’t know why the only ones they’re aware of came from a particular stretch of neighborhoods – but who cares? This is good news; it means Sheepshead Bay can join the party!

If you’ve got a cruddy landlord who may have violations from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, let the Public Advocate’s office know. They will add your building to the map, and try to spread the word and pressure the owner into better practices.

You can call the Public Advocate’s office at (212) 669-7200 or report a building on the website.

Screenshot of map of worst landlords, taken from Public Advocate's website

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s latest initiative, a compilation of New York City’s worst landlords, is burdened by one conspicuous yet unmentioned fact: the vast majority of slum lords operate along the Brooklyn-Queens and Bronx-Manhattan borders.

It was the first thing that caught my attention when I brought up the map of offending landlords created by his office. Manhattan and Staten Island remain, for the most part, clear. And so do the outer areas of the outerboroughs. But clusters of pink tabs congregate like a herpes outbreak around those sticky parts rubbing against their neighbors.

Sheepshead Bay, for its part, is totally in the clear. In fact, the only pin in all of Southern Brooklyn is in Coney Island, at 2766 West 15 Street. It’s a building owned by Henry Wright, a 70-infraction piker when compared to the city’s top slumlord, who has 1049 infractions.

Brooklyn is home to the most troubled buildings, though. We’ve got 96 out of 164 citywide. But, again, they’re almost universally located in the north of the borough.

So what’s with that? Why are they in such cruddy shape? And, in your experience, how do Sheepshead Bay’s landlords fare?