Notorious landlord Steve Croman first made the Village Voice’s Worst Landlords list in 1998. He made it again in 2003. And again in 2006.
The landlord equivalent of teflon, Croman terrorized tenants, dragging them into protracted court battles. Tenants lived in dangerous and intolerable conditions. Croman pled guilty to grand larceny and other felony charges in 2017. He was released from jail in 2018, only to buy a building this year on the other side of my district that is home to the historic White Horse Tavern.
Croman is just one of many bad actors who, eager to recoup on their substantial real estate investments, resorted to abusive and exploitative tactics to drive out rent-regulated tenants. They made millions. Many of them went unpunished.
Croman, for his part, was at least forced to pay $8 million in restitution funds—the largest ever monetary settlement with an individual landlord—to the thousands of rent regulated tenants he tormented and preyed upon to evict them from their homes and convert their units to market rate apartments.
State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein at a rally on Sunday, held in front of a Jared Kushner-owned property on East 12th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein hosted a rally in the East Village on Sunday to slam local predatory landlords and to announce a bill calling for more transparency in real estate lending.
The rally was held in front of a building owned by presidential son-in-law and accused slumlord Jared Kushner, Westminster City Living at 504 East 12th Street.
At the event, the elected officials announced the joint legislation that will direct the New York State Department of Financial Services to collect data on financial institutions lending to landlords acquiring property that include rent-stabilized tenants and investigate the role financial institutions play in encouraging anti-tenant practices.
The legislation argues that predatory equity has destabilized rent regulation and the affordable housing market in the city. The practice of predatory equity involves landlords acquiring rent-regulated properties with low to moderate-income tenants through highly speculative loans and then attempting to harass those tenants out to replace them with those who’ll pay market rent.
One of the cityʼs most notorious landlords has been jailed for a year in a rare move by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to sound a warning bell to unscrupulous New York building owners.
Steven Croman, who has been dubbed “The Bernie Madoff of Landlords,” was sentenced to one year at Rikers Island on Tuesday after pleading guilty to grand larceny and tax fraud.
Croman was also fined $5 million in a plea deal that saw him admit to third-degree grand larceny, first-degree falsifying business records and fourth-degree criminal tax fraud.
Between 2012 and 2014, Croman acquired $45 million in refinancing loans by submitting applications with phony rent rolls that showed market rate rents for units held by rent-stabilized tenants. He also inflated commercial rent payments to pad his on-paper profits and obtain larger loans, according to Schneiderman.
State Senator Brad Hoylman is hoping to shine some light into the shadowy world of limited liability corporations which, under current New York law, do not have to provide names or addresses of their owners when the companies are registered. Because of the mysterious nature of LLCs, they can be used to give seemingly endless campaign contributions as well as hide illegal activities like tax evasion and money laundering. To combat the money laundering issue, which has also been linked to terror funding, legislation has already been introduced at the federal level by Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, and Hoylman said his own bill is modeled after that one.
Hoylman’s legislation, announced, on Monday, would:
Make it mandatory for LLCs organized in New York or that do business in the state to disclose who their owners as well as provide a current residential or business address
Require the creation and maintenance of a publicly available database of those LLCs and their owners
Impose penalties that range from ten thousand dollars in fines to three years in prison for LLC owners who knowingly provide false, incomplete or outdated information.
Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Life-long Lower East Side resident Carlina Rivera has been involved in local politics since as young as age 12, so it should come as no surprise that her next move is running for City Council. Until recently, Rivera was the legislative director for Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and she left the position to focus on running to fill the seat in District 2 that Mendez will vacate this year due to term limits.
Rivera’s introduction to politics at such a young age was thanks to tenant advocate Marie Christopher, who lived on the first floor of her building on Stanton Street when she was growing up.
“She was an amazing tenant advocate, always pushing issues of public safety and preservation of NYCHA,” Rivera said of Christopher, who died in 2013. “She brought me to my first community council meeting. She knew that the community was an ecosystem, and she knew the importance of working with elected officials but also holding them accountable.”
Council Members Dan Garodnick and Jumaane Williams with tenants at a press conference at City Hall (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Tenant advocate groups have a message for landlord who harass tenants: You’re being watched.
At a press conference last Thursday, the advocates and elected officials said that they have identified predatory equity landlords who tenants say have been mistreating them and forcing them to live in hazardous conditions. Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Jumaane Williams, who formed the Coalition Against Predatory Equity last year with Councilmember Ritchie Torres from the Bronx, were at the event.
“We now have names attached to these situations so they know we’re going after them,” Williams, chair of the Council’s Housing Committee, said.
The landlords that have been singled out are Alma Realty Corp., Benedict Realty Group, Coltown Properties, Icon, SMRC Management, Steve Croman and Ved Parkash. Various tenants from buildings owned by these landlords were at the event, including residents of 444 East 13th Street, who recently filed a lawsuit against their new management company with the help of the Urban Justice Center because they have no gas or hot water and the management company has been doing construction despite a stop work order from the Department of Buildings.