By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
How many bad landlords are there in New York City? Who can count that high? But we can count to 10, so we assembled this group of really bad landlords—listed in no particular order—only after months of research. We combed through records of unresolved violations, lawsuits, eviction notices, and court documents. We spent thousands of hours in deeply depressing apartments and interviewed wave after wave of equally gloomy tenants. We also talked with scores of landlords, city bureaucrats, prosecutors, defense attorneys, housing advocates, and others. In the end, these are the 10 landlords we would want to rent from the least.
'AIMING FOR A SPOT ON NEXT YEAR'S BEST-LANDLORDS LIST'
Landlord: Moishe Indig
A rabbi and developer in Williamsburg's Satmar community, Indig is a board member of the powerful social services organization UJCare, is a strong Bloomberg supporter, has built a well-known synagogue on Hooper Street, and acts as something of a Hasidic community spokesman in the mainstream press.
Since Indig took control of 684 Flushing Avenue several years ago, it has been severely neglected and improperly subdivided. (According to the building's official Certificate of Occupancy, there should be six apartments in the building when there are actually 16.) In November 2006, a court appointed an independent administrator to oversee the building. Indig regained control of the building the following year, when he took out a $1.2 million mortgage. But the building has further deteriorated.
Quotable: Landlord Indig: "By next year, we hope you will be able to put the building back on the best-landlords list, instead of the worst! We hope that all the problems will be resolved."
Tenant Cruz Barreto, fearing that the rats currently crowded in the basement will invade his first-floor apartment: "I'm sleeping with the lights and the TV on—in case I need to get up and run."
What it's like to live there: With 132 violations (at last count) for a small four-story walk-up, 684 Flushing, in the East Williamsburg–Bushwick industrial region, is right up there on the city's worst-violations list. Forty-five of those violations are immediately hazardous, according to city records, and include a chronically broken boiler and gas pipes, as well as water leaks that result in the kinds of floods that cause ceilings to collapse.
Apartment 4D is ridden with bedbugs and mice, and the wood floors sag dangerously. A woman and her children live in a first-floor apartment that's missing a kitchen ceiling; it collapsed in a flood a few months ago.
The building has at least three abandoned apartments—their doors are boarded up with plywood and sprayed with graffiti. Two of those apartments, according to tenants, belonged to residents who fled because they couldn't stand the deathly cold. Like everyone else in the building, they kept their oven doors open and the gas on in the winter months—if there was gas, that is. "We haven't been able to cook for three months," says Leo Smith, a 55-year-old carpenter.
Michael Juliano, a musician who lives on the third floor, pleaded with the landlord last year to put a padlock on the basement door to stop crack addicts from spending nights there. Management ignored him, so Juliano put his own lock on the door. The basement still smells like piss and is littered with cracked light bulbs, torn-apart furniture, and bits of plywood. Rodents have made fist-size holes in the walls and floor. The basement has been full of rats since at least 2008, when the city started slapping the landlord with rodent violations that remain open to this day. "Everything that could go wrong in this building has gone wrong," Juliano says.
In early February, a water pipe in the wall broke, and Cruz Barreto's first-floor apartment was flooded.
Indig freely admits to the Voice that the building has been neglected. He blames "family issues," including a fatal illness in the building manager's family, and, he says, he has recently changed his managerial team.
The building has a sorry history: By July 2007, Indig had stacked up 195 violations. The city sued, and in December 2008, a housing court judge demanded that the violations be taken care of immediately and that Indig pay the city almost $100,000 for all the emergency repairs. (Neither Indig nor his lawyers showed up in court to dispute the city.) In the year following the default judgment, records show, Indig didn't do the repairs or pay the city a dime, and his bill grew by $20,000. Since the Voice talked with Indig in February, however, the landlord has paid the city about $90,000 of his tab, records show.
Mitigating factors: In early February, for the first time in three years, the building's heat came on.
Future: With the water leaks, the broken gas pipes, the sagging floors, plus the mice, bedbugs, and rats, the tenants say there's no reason to pay rent—and they've been withholding it since 2008. They are putting the money in an escrow account until the landlord takes care of the building. Meanwhile, Indig is suing most of the tenants to get them to pay. On February 16, a housing court judge again ordered Indig's company to fix the violations.