PUBLIC ADVOCATE WILLIAMS UNVEILS 2020 WORST LANDLORD WATCHLIST

Dec. 15, 2020


Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the annual Worst Landlord Watchlist today, which catalogues the 100 most egregiously negligent landlords in New York City as determined by widespread, repeated, and unaddressed violations in buildings on the list. This year, the buildings owned by the worst landlords in the city were overwhelmingly in the Black and Brown neighborhoods hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 2019 worst individual landlord remains in the top spot for the second year in a row, Jason Korn. Korn amassed an average of 1,822 violations across 10 buildings on the list in 2020. In addition to the injustices occurring inside Korn's buildings is the injustice of his attempts to force tenants out. As the coronavirus continues to devastate the city and cases are rising, Korn is currently threatening to evict a group of Crown Heights tenants who have organized a rent strike, those tenants citing widespread neglect and deplorable conditions.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) also tops the 2020 Worst Landlord List for the third year in a row. For his mismanagement of NYCHA-- as well as his failure to take sufficient action against individual landlords in 2020 and throughout his term-- Public Advocate Williams cited the de Blasio administration as one of the worst landlords in New York City.

"In a moment when New Yorkers are largely confined to their homes, facing a deadly pandemic and an economic crisis, the worst landlords in New York City continue to take advantage of New Yorkers in need, neglecting emergency repairs and allowing dangerous conditions to go unchecked while continuing to cash rent checks," said Public Advocate Williams. "Again, we see the COVID-19 pandemic revealing existing inequities, as the worst landlords operate in some of the worst-hit neighborhoods in our city and target lower income communities of more color."

"The de Blasio administration itself is among the worst landlords this year in part because they have failed to hold bad actors accountable again and again throughout this tenure," the Public Advocate added. "As he heads into his eighth and final year in office, the issues we have today are no longer about any actions taken by the prior administration, but the utter failures of the current one and the need to take ownership of those failures. Together with tenants and advocates across the city, we will continue to hold the Mayor and everyone on this list accountable through legislation and organization."

With the Mayor set to begin his final year in office, the number of NYCHA work orders has skyrocketed and the safety, the standard of NYCHA buildings has deteriorated, and lead exposures for children living in NYCHA units across the city is at previously unknown and devastating levels. Private landlords have been able to evade true consequences or accountability under city management unwilling to hold them to account. And as the ongoing homelessness crisis has only worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the de Blasio administration is attempting to evict homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel.

The Public Advocate's Worst Landlord Watchlist is an information-sharing tool intended to allow tenants, public officials, advocates, and other concerned individuals to identify which residential property owners consistently flout the City's laws intended to protect the rights and safety of tenants. This is the second list from Public Advocate Williams' office.

The top 5 worst individual landlords in New York City in 2020 are:

Jason Korn, with an average of 1,822 HPD open violations

Lewis Barbanel, with an average of 1,383 HPD open violations

Robert Raphael, with an average of 1,229 HPD open violations

Abdul Khan, with an average of 1,195 HPD open violations

David Blau, with an average of 952 HPD open violations

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting of issues to the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and subsequent violations dropped significantly, likely as tenants were apprehensive about facing retaliation for reporting or concerned about exposing themselves to additional people in their homes. But with New York City residents confined to their homes for much of the year, violations such as lack of heat or hot water, mold, or infestation, which were reported to HPD and went unaddressed by the worst landlords in the city, are even more urgent and dangerous. At the same time, among NYCHA buildings, open work orders have risen from 236,360 in October of 2018 to 461,830 in October of 2020.

An analysis of the buildings that comprise the Worst Landlord Watchlist finds that the zip codes with the highest-violation buildings in the city correspond with communities of more color also hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. This only reinforces the reality that racial and income inequity are primary factors in both the spread of the coronavirus and the pervasiveness of poor housing conditions and the landlords perpetuating them. 

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Above: Buildings on the Worst Landlord Watchlist and Percentage of Nonwhite Residents in Neighborhoods

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Above: Buildings on the Worst Landlord Watchlist and COVID-19 Impact in Neighborhood

At a virtual press conference Tuesday, Public Advocate Williams decried the actions of the landlords on the list alongside local elected officials and a coalition of tenants facing the deplorable conditions allowed by the worst landlords in the city. Video of the press conferences is available here, and featured video of several units in these buildings can be streamed or downloaded here

Individual landlords on the Worst Landlord Watchlist are ranked according to objective criteria using the average number of housing code violations open per month on their buildings by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), using data from December 2019 to November 2020. Also listed are the 10 "worst" buildings for each borough, ranked according to the number of average open violations per month, regardless of ownership. Only Class B and C violations are counted in the calculation of whether a building meets the selection criteria. More on the methodology is available here.

View the full Worst Landlord Watchlist, and check to see if your address is owned by a 2020 worst landlord, by visiting LandlordWatchlist.com. Virtual tours and tenant testimonials are available here.

"So many New Yorkers have to stay indoors during this pandemic, and unfortunately some of them are unlucky enough to be tenants of the worst landlords on this watch list," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "Today's announcement by the Public Advocate brings the worst of New York City's landlords to light, and I am proud to work with Public Advocate Williams to find solutions to empower tenants and to take on bad landlords."

"Queens residents have gone through so much during the current COVID-19 pandemic, so they should not have to also deal with unscrupulous landlords who fail to maintain their properties," said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. "It's important we shine a bright light on landlords who don't meet their basic obligations to their tenants. We also have to hold them accountable so that they won't continue to profit from their neglect."

"I am going to use my voice to amplify those of tenants suffering because of the worst landlords in our city along with Public Advocate Williams, said Council Member Robert Cornegy, Chair of the Committee on Housing. "I want to let every tenant know: Don't let your address appear on Worst Landlords Watchlist. Do not wait until the last minute if you are not getting the services that you paid for. If your apartment is too cold, call your elected representatives sooner rather than later. Landlords have a responsibility toward their tenants, and and if there are resources that can help, we want to make sure the landlords know about the tools available to them. Finally, bad actors need to be called out in no uncertain terms. That is why Borough President Adams, Council Members Torres, Council Member Levine and myself passed legislation requiring internet capable temperature reporting device for landlords with repeat violations. The Covid-19 epidemic getting worse, not better, and we must work together to to protect the homes and safety of our community."

"It is unfathomable that landlords would refuse to protect their tenants' health and safety by ensuring sufficient repairs are made to their apartments during a public health crisis. Communities of color devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic are being forced to endure poor living conditions, harassment, and the threat of eviction. We must demand better for our residents and continue to hold these landlords accountable for their actions. Thank you, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for putting together this list and for your tireless advocacy for this city," said Council Member Vanessa Gibson of the Bronx.

"Residents living in NYCHA properties deserve to be treated with respect. They deserve working elevators and clean and safe living spaces without having to protest or sue for it. It is honestly shockingly sad that NYCHA continues to be one of the City's worst landlords year after year. Thank you to Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams for his work shining a light on the needs of our City's tenants,"said Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan.

"It is truly despicable and frustrating that there has not been any progress within the past year to improve building maintenance and resolve existing violations by Jason Korn, New York City's Worst Landlord. Being highlighted on this list is not a contest but a disgraceful pattern of mismanagement, negligence, and a complete disregard for public health and safety. Every tenant-regardless of race, income, or zip code-deserves a clean and safe place to live. Our city must utilize every legal recourse to protect and advocate for these families who are rent-burdened and have been treated inhumanely," said Council Member Farah N. Louis of Brooklyn.

"It's outrageous that we have landlords, especially during this pandemic, putting tenants through horrendous living conditions. New Yorkers have endured enough. I am going to continue to work with our community partners to ensure my constituents, who have been the hardest hit by COVID-19, know their rights and have access to resources," said Council Member Francisco Moya of Queens.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that every New Yorker has a good place to live. This work is even more important during a pandemic. Thank you to Public Advocate Williams for your continued check on these bad actors," said Council Member Keith Powers of Manhattan.

"All New Yorkers deserve access to decent housing; it is a property owner's responsibility to maintain a baseline standard of quality by providing basic upkeep and respecting tenants' rights. Yet far too often, we see landlords shirk their responsibility to tenants, or even worse, harass tenants. I thank Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for calling out New York City's worst landlords and will continue to fight for accountability for these bad actors," said Council Member Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn.

"The Public Advocate's Worst Landlord Watchlist is an important tool in identifying bad actors in New York City's housing environment. It is also essential in analyzing whether state and local laws - and their enforcement - are yielding results as we compare which owners and managers appear on this list and whether their rankings change. I thank Public Advocate Williams' team for its continued diligence on compiling this report," said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera of Manhattan.

"It is unconscionable that at a time when New York City tenants are spending more time in their apartments that there are unscrupulous landlords out there who are continuing to prioritize profits over the health of tenants. What the COVID-19 pandemic made crystal clear is that unhealthy housing is a public health issue.  Any landlord on this Watchlist should be ashamed of their actions and I call on our elected representatives and responsible governmental agencies to hold these landlords accountable now.  I look forward to working with the Public Advocate's office to make this Watchlist a thing of the past," said Yolanda A. Cadore of Tenants & Neighbors. 

"It is truly appalling that so many landlords are failing to give tenants a basic level of services, as require by law. We are especially concerned that NYCHA once more made the list, and call on every level of government: Federal, State and City to bridge the funding gap at NYCHA to ensure that our clients don't continue to live in squalor. We thank Public Advocate Williams for highlighting this issue and urge the City to hold unscrupulous landlords accountable who flaunt the law," said Judith Goldiner, Attorney in Charge, Civil Law Reform Unit, The Legal Aid Society.

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