Letter From Steven Kessner?


Someone writing as Steven Kessner–and sounding more than a little legit–posted this comment to a now buried Power Plays item about the Voice’s 10 Worst Landlords report. Kessner made the list with this quote for a subhead: “All I do is fix, and they damage.”

Lest his comment on the earlier item get lost, we’ll reprint it here, after the jump.

Comment in full:

My name is Steven Kessner and I was named in the Village Voice article, “10 Worst Landlords.” My partners and I own almost sixty buildings in East Harlem but there was not enough time or space in the newspaper to do an in depth article on my buildings, so it focused on two buildings across the street from each other on East 117th Street; one which it claimed was gentrified and the other squalid; one for middle class people and the other for immigrants. Consequently, I was accused of having a two tiered portfolio, taking advantage of the immigrants in the poorer buildings. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is true that one building is nicer. It had been vacated by the City because of hazardous conditions and was purchased out of foreclosure. In 2000, I gut renovated the building into 40 new apartments, was able to charge market rents and all of the tenants had to work and have good credit. I needed them to be able to pay the rent so I could pay my mortgage.

On the other side of the street, I own a building that was also purchased out of foreclosure, in 1994. This was not an empty building and no tenants were displaced. This building has had a new boiler, new roof, new electrical wiring, new sheet rock in the halls, all new windows and new gas piping. All of that was done from the buildings cash flow over the last several years. As tenants left, their apartments were renovated and about half of the 30 units have been done. In this building there about 10 apartments that are overcrowded with as much as 15-20 people living in each. This includes gang members and there are drug dealers in the building. Day after day, these people destroy the building. They kick open the front door and roof door, their bathrooms develop leaks and mold from all of the constant usage, the stoves and kitchen walls are grease covered, the hallway walls covered daily with graffiti and the courtyards filled with garbage. You might think that the landlord was bad but if you looked closely, you would find out the truth. Every day the porter cleans the halls and courtyards and every day the super paints over the graffiti. We are constantly replacing locks in the doors and periodically replace the doors themselves. When leaks develop, we patch up the bathrooms and replace fixtures but they always leak again. What is a landlord to do? We try to remove the illegal occupants and reduce the numbers of undesirable tenants but it�s a slow process and the deck is stacked against landlords in housing court. The occupants keep calling HPD, the newspapers and TV stations, trying to prevent their removal and we keep working through the system to get them out. When the last of these occupants leaves the building, it will become as nice as the building across the street. I have been in this neighborhood, turning distressed buildings into quality housing for almost twenty five years. Out of 5,000 tenants in 1300 units, there are a handful remaining that are slowly turning. If you want to call Steven Kessner a bad landlord, look at the whole picture. I invite any reporter that doesn�t have their own agenda to look at every one of my buildings and write the real story. For more information look up my website or my company website