The 10 Worst Landlords is a Voice institution. Started by longtime senior editor Jack Newfield in the ’60s, it became a regular feature gracing our pages through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. This edition is dedicated to Newfield, who died in 2004. It was written by students from his alma mater, Hunter College. Senior editor Wayne Barrett, who this winter was the first Jack Newfield Visiting Professor of Journalism at Hunter, supervised the project.
Newfield’s words from the ’80s still ring true. “Not all landlords are heartless, not every tenant is victimized,” he wrote, and not every victimized tenant has a heartless landlord. But the Voice‘s purpose remains, as Newfield put it, “to show what has been done by 10 moral offenders by analyzing code violations and court proceedings, and through interviews with tenants, organizers, and housing officials.”
Housing trends in the city are still bleak for renters.
Rents punish, vacancies are scarcer than ever, and landlords almost always have the upper hand. New York is riddled with bad landlords, so choosing the 10 worst is not a scientific process. For example, we considered including the Pinnacle Group, which has been in the press a great deal lately, principally for allegedly wrongful evictions. But we discovered pluses and minuses about Pinnacle’s practices and decided to continue to investigate, rather than list it among the clear-cut culprits.
There are some hopeful signs for tenants. Most important is that the commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Shaun Donovan, and the head of the Housing Litigation Unit, Deborah Rand, are clearly dedicated to championing tenants trapped in the worst housing. They helped us identify some of the landlords on this list, and they are using every available legal weapon to compel greater code compliance. In addition, the City Council, under the leadership of new Speaker Christine Quinn, is actively considering legislation to strengthen tenant protections. Newfield would be proud of all three— Quinn, Rand, and Donovan.
The following property owners—perhaps through greed, venality, indifference, or just plain incompetence—wreak havoc on their tenants and the city.