By Albert Samaha
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By Anna Merlan
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By Roy Edroso
It's the new game sweeping New York, from the high-rises of Manhattan to the crumbling blockhouses of the Bronx. Any number can play, and while the rules are somewhat arcane, that hasn't prevented it from becoming hugely popular—so popular, in fact, that you may already be playing without realizing it! It's the new board-game sensation, Who's My Landlord?™
Here at the Voice, it has become abundantly clear that many of you—even those seasoned players who have been enjoying previous versions of the game for years—may still be unclear about the complex rules, strategic vagaries, and tricky maneuvers that separate the winners from the losers of WHO'S MY LANDLORD?™, so we've set out to make those rules more plain, as well as provide some detailed examples of extended play—updated to the latest rule variants.
Even veterans of WHO'S MY LANDLORD?™ will benefit from the advanced play detailed here, which has been extensively researched and verified by a panel of top tournament champions. For beginners, meanwhile, it's never too late to get swept up in the fun.
Remember, all you need to get started is what comes in a box of WHO'S MY LANDLORD?™, a few of your latest rent stubs, some determination to navigate city bureaucracy, and a winning attitude.
There's an unwritten rule in WHO'S MY LANDLORD?™ that binds together all players, from the Battery to Flushing, from the Rockaways to Inwood: You're playing this game because your apartment happens to be in a building with serious problems. If it weren't, after all—if your place had hot water, and a working boiler, and windows without cracks, and solid walls—you really wouldn't care who you wrote your monthly checks to, would you?!
But when things begin to fall apart, and month after month you can't get anyone to fix the hole in your ceiling or provide some warmth to your rooms in the dead of winter, then it's imperative to find out who your rent checks are going to, and hold that person accountable.
Of course, this wouldn't be a thrilling game without an able opponent, and landlords look for every advantage to stay one step ahead of complaining tenants and city inspectors. A slumlord's best strategy is to do everything humanly possible to keep his name off the buildings he owns!
That's where the real fun of WHO'S MY LANDLORD?™ begins—when tenants go looking for slumlords who don't want to be found. And what a game of cat and mouse!
Let's take a look at the rules and some actual examples of how this exciting game unfolds. Keep those action cards and special dice handy as you follow along at home.
New to the game? Follow these simple instructions to get started. First, check your rent stub. Write down the name of the company to whom you pay your rent. Keep that with you for future reference.
Second, get yourself to a computer and go to the city's website (nyc.gov). Look for a pulldown menu on the left rail titled "Jump to City Agency Web sites." Select "Housing–HPD" and you'll be taken to the page for the city's Department of Housing Preservation & Development. HPD is the agency charged with protecting you from unscrupulous landlords. They're also the people who take your 3-1-1 calls on housing and do emergency repairs.
On the right rail, you'll find a place to type in your add-ress and apartment number. When your building comes up, you're going to have a lot of info at your fingertips. You can find out how many code violations are in your apartment, or whether any of your neighbors or the city is bringing a housing court lawsuit against your landlord.
Congratulations. You are now playing WHO'S MY LANDLORD?™
Beginner Mistakes: A Case History
Sometimes, players new to the game can feel overwhelmed. And who's to blame them? After all, if the city itself can't figure out which slumlords own the city's worst buildings, how can a frustrated tenant feel any confidence at all?
We're talking, of course, of the spectacular example of inexperienced play by the city's own public advocate, Bill de Blasio. With much fanfare, de Blasio announced this summer that he was going to shame slumlords in an online list of the worst buildings in the city. But as soon as his list hit the Internet, experienced players erupted in howls of laughter. De Blasio had fallen for the oldest trick in the book, listing not the slumlords who actually owned some of the buildings, but their property managers or other low-level employees—even a person tenants say is a secretary, in one case!
As we pointed out in September, two of the city's worst slumlords—Frank Palazzolo and Cronus Capital, controlled by a financier named Steven Carter—were nowhere named on de Blasio's initial list, even though several of their buildings were highlighted as among the worst of the worst!