New York City’s public housing authority is still the city’s worst landlord, according to the annual list released by the Public Advocate Jumaane Williams' office Thursday, with a whopping 600,000 open requests for unfinished repairs.
“Broken elevators, leaks, molds, mildew, infestations, rats on the ground, mice in the buildings,” said Saundrea I. Coleman, a tenant of the Isaacs Houses on the Upper East Side, when asked to comment on NYCHA’s dubious distinction.
Coleman, who organizes others in her building, said she's used to her neighbors telling her, “‘My apartment is clean, it's spic and span but I cant get rid of these roaches.’ You cannot make this up. We are the new Flint.”
The chronically underfunded housing authority has been a stain on the de Blasio administration for years. Despite a federal monitor, a supposed state of emergency, a slew of investigations and overhauled leadership, the dilapidation at city public housing — home to more than 500,000 New Yorkers — has continued to plague residents.
Last month public housing tenants had 600,480 open requests for repairs, a number that’s been steadily on the rise since the start of the pandemic. Open requests had peaked under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg at 423,000 and dropped down to 274,000 in 2013. Data between 2013 and 2020 wasn’t immediately available.
Asked about the surge in work orders, Rochel Goldblatt, a spokesperson for the authority, pointed to the more than $40 billion in funding the agency needs to renovate its 2,200 buildings.
“Work orders have increased because we are aggressively documenting every single thing that’s wrong with our apartments,” she said. “This list is kicking New York City public housing yet again — when instead NYCHA needs to be funded and supported — and it conveniently takes the media attention away from private landlords, who need to be similarly held accountable.”
Topping the Public Advocate’s list for worst private landlord was David Schorr, whose name is associated with more than 100 buildings, mostly located in Upper Manhattan and Central Brooklyn.
Schorr worked for Sugar Hill Capital and recently went to another management company, Fairstead, according to his LinkedIn profile. A spokesperson for Fairstead said Schorr was listed because he’d been Sugar Hill’s property manager, but declined to comment further. Buildings associated with his name have 1,442 open violations for heat, hot water, roaches and mold, along with an array of other conditions according to data from the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, cited in Williams’ report.
A spokesperson for Sugar Hill took issue with being included on Williams’s list.
“This watchlist is misleading,” the spokesperson said. “The list does not take into account poor conditions created by prior ownership or ongoing work and progress already made to improve those conditions.”
Landlords Abdul Kahn with MK Realty Group LLC and David Blau with J K Management Corp. made it back to top of the list for a second time with 1,302, and 1,050 open violations, respectively, in buildings they oversee. Khan couldn’t be reached for comment and Blau didn’t return a request for comment immediately.
Kim Statuto, a tenant in one of Kahn’s buildings, said Thursday she went for 14 months without gas.
“It isn’t right that a man who has 23 properties treats tenants the way he’s treating us,” she said. “We are humans, we have a right to a decent and safe home.”
Nathaniel Montgomery, the Chief Operating Officer of the affordable housing nonprofit NEBHDCO, was a new addition to the top-five ranking. The group owns buildings in Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York and Brownsville. Montgomery didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Lastly, Michael Niamonitakis of Meridian Properties LLC, with more than 100 properties in Central and South Brooklyn, had been on the list in prior years and returns in this year's edition. He also didn’t immediately return a request for comment. He made the top five with 1,060 open violations in his buildings.
“All of the landlords on this list should be paying fines, but we need the resources and the will to do it,” said Williams, speaking at a virtual press conference Thursday afternoon. “With the new administration about to take office, it’s critical that we take expanded, expedited action to hold the worst actors in our city accountable.”
The city’s housing agency, which is responsible for levying those fines, did not respond to a request for comment.