The annual public shaming of the city's sleaziest slumlords, who then just get to keep being slumlords, arrived with a twist on Wednesday: For the first time ever, the Worst Landlord distinction was given to New York City, thanks to its ongoing failure to address abhorrent conditions at the city's public housing stock. Remember when Time Magazine named "you" the Person of the Year?
Public Advocate Tish James released the list on Wednesday, alongside a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio criticizing his "inadequate management" of the New York City Housing Authority. "Today NYCHA is New York City’s worst landlord," wrote James. "It is my hope in 10 years it will be the city’s best.”
Since it was first conceived eight years ago by Public Advocate de Blasio, the list has been limited to private buildings, and based on violations issued by the Department of Housing Preservation. But this year's index took into account open work orders at NYCHA, which are "roughly equivalent" to HPD violations. Red Hook Houses topped the list with more than two backlogged repair requests for every tenant, with Mill Brook Houses, Albany Houses, and Sedgwick Houses following close behind. Overall, the list found that 174,488 NYCHA units currently have 240,120 open work orders.
Many of those grievances were likely related to ongoing heat and hot water issues at NYCHA developments, which have affected at least 35,000 residents this year. Parents of young children have also petitioned the authority to address lead paint in their apartments—requests that have often been outright ignored, or in some cases, met with inexplicable eviction notices from NYCHA management. In a city of bad landlords, only one has put tens of thousands of kids at risk for irreversible lead poisoning, then blamed their own failed cover up on the tenants put in harm's way.
"Every day, our clients living in NYCHA developments and in rent-stabilized units have to fight to secure basic necessities including working heat and hot water," said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. "This must end, and a spotlight must be put on the bad actors who perpetuate these injustices." An estimated $32 billion will be needed to address the lengthy backlog of repairs, with the possibility of "permanent damage" if even a fraction of NYCHA apartments are lost to condemnation.
Beyond the crisis at NYCHA, the public advocate also released a watchlist of the 100 worst private landlords. Eric Silverstein led the pack with 1,449 HPD violations spread out over four buildings in Brooklyn and Queens. One of his properties in Jamaica, Queens has a city-leading 626 open violations, including vermin and roach infestations, plumbing problems, busted elevators and broken heaters. In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, tenants accused Silverstein's management company of "harassment, intimidation, and/or abuse" aimed at forcing them to move out.
The ranking cements the Silverstein family as something of slumlord dynasty, after father Harry Silverstein took the first and second place spots atop the list in 2016 and 2015, respectively. Continuity!
We've reached out to both NYCHA and Eric Silverstein and will update if we hear back. You can peruse the full list of lousy landlords here.