You know you must be pretty sleazy when your behavior makes State Senate scofflaw Pedro Espada, Jr. blush. Yesterday the esteemed Senator from Bronxchester abruptly fired his deputy chief of staff, Onix A. Sosa, after the Times confronted him about Sosa's past work managing 35 buildings in upper Manhattan and the Bronx with close to 7,400 unresolved violations, including 1,100 deemed immediately hazardous. That kind of thing doesn't fly in Espada's office, at least not once the press catches wind of it. In a statement, Espada said, "I was shocked and, quite frankly, blindsided by this revelation."
Speaking to the Times, Espada explained that "as someone who is deeply committed to preserving and creating affordable housing, maintaining safe and quality living environments, [Mr. Sosa] left me with little choice." But Espada's commitment to affordable housing may come as a surprise to tenants’ advocates who are deeply frustrated with his failure, as chairman of the Senate Housing Committee, to push through a bill expanding rent regulation and tenants' rights.
One of the landlords with whom Sosa worked was recently included on Councilman Bill de Blasio’s "slumlord watch list." And the Times visited another building at West 136th Street that was cited for 78 hazardous violations in 2007 and 2008 while Sosa was managing it; one tenant with a leaky hole in his ceiling remarked, "He is not good people." Sosa also continued to manage buildings after his real estate broker’s license was revoked in 2004, for "gross untrustworthiness" after he failed to return deposits to would-be renters.
Sosa was hired by Espada for the $60,000-a-year post just last month; previously he headed the nonprofit Upper Manhattan Council Assisting Neighbors, from which former Washington Heights City Councilman Miguel Martinez recently pleaded guilty to stealing money.