In this year’s Worst Landlords list put out by Public Advocate Bill deBlasio, once again the real worst landlords have managed to slip under the public radar.
Bill deBlasio, as a councilmember and now as the city’s Public Advocate, gets props for stepping up and pointing a finger at the city’s worst landlords – the building owners whose neglect of their duties has put the lives of their tenants in danger in innumerable ways: leading to building fires, ceiling collapses, and leaking roofs that cause tenants to slip on the floors. This week, when deBlasio published his annual list, the item received lots of press coverage.
Only problem? Bill’s list falls for the oldest of a slumlord’s tricks.
DeBlasio’s list names a number of the landlords that we exposed back in March, in the Voice’s Ten Worst landlords list. Landlords such as Alan Fein, Humphrey Stephenson, Moishe Indig, and the Yashouafar family all appear on it.
But there’s one big problem with DeBlasio’s list: many of the city’s worst slumlords aren’t on it. Because of poor city record keeping, the real worst landlords have managed to avoid detection.
The problem boils down to this: When property owners file documents with the city, they are required to register the name of an owner. Slumlords tend to put down all sorts of names in that ‘owner slot’ – including names of property managers, company employees, even secretaries. These lists are rarely audited. Last week, the City Council passed a new law that will supposedly make it harder for landlords to do that, but it’s going to be tough to enforce.
Here’s a crib sheet on who’s really behind deBlasio’s list:
Take Bronx landlord Frank Palazzolo. As owner of the properties with the highest number of housing code violations, he topped our list as one of city’s ten worst landlords. You won’t find his name anywhere on Bill deBlasio’s list. But if you look closely, he’s all over it.
A city property search shows this his company Palazollo Realty, continues to be on the property deeds for 2710 Bainbridge Avenue, as well as 2356 Lorillard Place, in the Bronx – two of the most decrepit buildings in the city. Both buildings appear on deBlasio’s list under the name Shawn Curry. When we paid a visit to Lorillard Place, we saw a three-bedroom apartment that had one working electrical socket and broken windows that tenants had sealed with trash bags to keep out the cold. A boy and his mother were living in an apartment whose bathroom had both a collapsed ceiling and a collapsed floor, and had scorching hot water constantly gushing from the shower head, turning the bathroom into a 24-hour steam room.
We were unable to find Shawn Curry’s relationship to the building.
Then there’s Alan Fein. Alan Fein is named on deBlasio’s list twice, but he should be there four times. In one of his buildings, 2239 Creston Avenue, the Feins have listed Carmen Iglesias the owner. The name Carmen Iglesias does not appear anywhere property deed for the building – 2239 Creston Avenue, in the Bronx. Multiple tenants have told us that Iglesias is a low level employee in the Fein’s real estate company. Or take 1926 Walton Avenue. A property deed shows that the property hasn’t changed hands since 1994, when it was purchased by Apache Properties, a company that belongs to the Fein family.
Then there’s private equity-backed Perseus Capital Management or Cronus Capital – another company listed on the Village Voice’s Worst Landlord’s list. You won’t find Cronus (an affiliate of a $7.5 billion European private-equity firm) or Perseus on the list either. But look over at another building on deBlasio’s list – 11 Vermilyea Avenue, in Washington Heights. DeBlasio has listed the owner of that building as Vilma Vigil – who also is the listed owner for four buildings on the list. The 2006 property deed for 11 Vermilyea lists the owner as 9-11 Vermilyea Avenue Holdings LP C/o Cronus Real Estate. How about 184 Nagle Avenue – another building listed as being owned by Vilma Vigil. The 2007 listed the owner as the Cronus Real Estate fund.
Cronus is controlled by the financier Steven Carter.