New York's Ten Worst Landlords, Part 1

In a city of slumlords and broke-ass apartment buildings, these stand out.

Tenants have said that when they complain to Hakakian, he tells them that he has no money. Reacting to news reports at the time that Hakakian lives in a $5.9 million estate in Kings Point, Long Island, de Blasio lashed out like a cobra: "When I hear a story like that, it makes me sick. How could someone benefiting on that level not worry about how his tenants are living?"

Quotable: Pausing in front of a dark, dirty area beneath the first-floor stairwell at 511 West 160th Street that is a local prostitute's place of business, normally cheerful tenant Marta Diaz says, "It's been like this for so many years. Completely disgusting."

What it's like to live there: "For more than four years, we called the police every single day," says Elsa Espinal, recalling the young men who sold drugs every day from the second-floor common area. "We still can't get them to put a lock on the door."

Alvaro Diaz Rubio
Life from both sides: Top, Indig 
tenants Juliano (left) and Barreto. Above, landlord Stephenson.
Jared Gruenwald
Life from both sides: Top, Indig tenants Juliano (left) and Barreto. Above, landlord Stephenson.

Her husband, Ramon Espinal, is a retired NYU janitor. Since 1974, the Dominican couple has lived and raised their children at 206 Audubon Avenue, where they pay $618 for a spacious and neat two-bedroom apartment. They keep a bucket beside a radiator that has been leaking for more than a year. In the middle of the night, from time to time, when they aren't awake to catch the spillage, the leak floods their living-room floor. "I was a janitor," Espinal says. "I know what it means to keep things clean. It feels like he's just abandoned the building."

So much so that tenants have to occasionally abandon their apartments. One tenant sent her three young children to stay with their grandmother in the Dominican Republic because their bedroom was covered in mold. The kids stayed in the D.R. for three months, missing the beginning of school while they waited until the mold was removed.

Hakakian buildings visited by the Voice exhibit the tell-tale signs of a slumlord: They are covered by graffiti and have no locks on their doors. In one building, the windows in the main stairwells are broken, and the place is freezing cold. In one filthy apartment, mold blankets the walls. There was so much mold that a small plant was actually growing out of the mold on a windowsill.

Mitigating factors: None that we're aware of. And Hakakian won't return calls.

Future: De Blasio made big promises last year, telling Manhattan Times reporter Daniel P. Bader: "We want to shame these landlords into action. If they don't, we will stay after them every week and help the tenants organize."

edwoskin@villagevoice.com

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