CITY HALL — This is one award you don't want to win.
Landlord Robin Shimoff has been named the city's worst landlord this year — with 3,300 open violations across 13 buildings in The Bronx — according to Public Advocate Letitia James.
"The violations include mold, bedbugs, leaks, broken doors and windows," James said at a press conference to release her 2014 list of the city's worst landlords on Wednesday. "So, Ms. Shimoff, congratulations. You have the distinction of being the worst landlord in the city. I would urge you to clean up your act immediately."
Staff at a telephone number listed as Shimoff's office gave out a disconnected number when asked how to reach her. The workers said they had no other way to reach Shimoff.
In order to make the list, buildings with fewer than 35 units must have an average of three open serious violations per apartment. Buildings with more than 35 units must have an average of two open serious violations per apartment.
James' full list found serious deficiencies at 6,800 buildings across the city owned by 5,000 different landlords. The list of the 100 worst landlords was released today.
James blamed the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development for not doing enough to force landlords to make repairs at thousands of crumbling buildings in the poorest neighborhoods around the city.
She said the agency needs to pursue criminal contempt charges and speed up the process of taking buildings away from negligent landlords, as well as provide increased legal funding for tenants who need lawyers in Housing Court.
"We are urging HPD to be more aggressive," James said. "They've got the tools in their toolbox, they need to utilize them."
For example, none of the landlords on James' list have been added to HPD's Alternative Enforcement Program, which allows for fines if landlords fail to make repairs, she said.
HPD spokesman Eric Bederman refuted James' charges, saying the de Blasio administration has allocated an additional $3 million in this year's budget to increase staff at the Alternative Enforcement Program and to hire key workers throughout the agency.
The agency also maintains a public database and has launched multiple civil and criminal prosecutions against the worst landlords, he said.
"If owners skirt the law and force tenants to live in deplorable conditions we use every available enforcement tool at our disposal to hold them accountable for their actions," Bederman said.
HPD officials say they are aware of Shimoff and have taken action.
The agency says they have been involved with more than 20 Housing Court cases from 2005 to 2013 at Shimoff's building at 3525 Decatur Ave. in The Bronx. Over 11 years, from 2002 until last year, HPD says they've spent almost $14,000 at the building to repair the most hazardous violations which the landlord has refused to fix.
James said one of the reasons HPD needs to be more aggressive is that many of the landlords on the list are repeat offenders with safety issues at their buildings stretching over many years.
"HPD should speed up the process of taking buildings from bad landlords," said James.
Central Brooklyn led the watchlist with 3,700 buildings, demonstrating the housing pressure facing tenants in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods there.
Carmen Pineiro, 73, is one of those tenants. She pays $560 per month for a one bedroom apartment in Flatbush where she has lived for more than 50 years. The 84-unit building is being converted into co-ops and there are only 24 rent regulated apartments left.
Pineiro said her landlord sent her to a hotel in June saying that repairs were needed in her apartment. When she returned, the apartment was stripped to the wall studs and the bathroom was devoid of tiles.
"I feel terrible. I can't use my bathroom," Pineiro said. "They are trying to run me out of the building."
Landlords often hold off on repairs to get tenants out of buildings in newly-desirable neighborhoods or repairs are used to raise the rent, said Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.
He hoped the list would help motivate landlords to change or banks to hold off lending them money.
"It is an incredible document of shame," Dulchin said of the list. "If your name is on that list you are exposed and you are genuinely shamed by the way you treated your tenants."