EAST VILLAGE — State investigators have launched a probe into an East Village landlord who has been accused of intimidating tenants into vacating their rent-regulated units.
The state’s Tenant Protection Unit served subpoenas on companies owned by Rafael Toledano as part of an investigation into claims of tenant harassment.
Tenants at 444 E. 13th St. took Toledano’s Goldmark Property Management and its agents to court earlier this year, claiming that they were trying to drive tenants out of their longtime homes through illegal construction and persistent buyout offers.
The landlord also refused to make repairs in their apartments and asked tenants to provide documents like passports to prove their legal status while accusing them of illegal activity like prostitution and drug trafficking, residents previously told DNAinfo.
Toledano’s agents also told residents about “looming police and immigration raids, rent hikes and structural problems in an effort to force them to sign agreements surrendering their rights to their apartments” in secret recordings made by tenants, according to the New York Daily News, which first reported the investigation.
"Harassment of rent-regulated tenants is unacceptable: that’s today’s message for landlords, managers, associates, agents, accomplices — and anyone else who is trying to intimidate tenants into leaving their homes," said James S. Rubin, the commissioner and CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, in a statement.
"Landlords who violate the State’s rent laws should know that thanks to Governor Cuomo and Tenant Protection Unit, they are being watched and will be held accountable."
State investigators were made aware of the situation by the Urban Justice Center, which has been representing the predominantly Spanish-speaking tenants, and the tenant advocacy group Good Old Lower East Side, which also worked with the building's tenants.
A spokesman for Toledano denied allegations of abusive behavior in an emailed statement.
“Since being made aware of the conditions at 13th Street, Mr. Toledano immediately addressed the tenants’ concerns," he said.
Toledano also fired the building's management company, Goldmark Property Management, "which Mr. Toledano has no ownership stake in" and "has sought the cooperation of the Urban Justice Center to coordinate the work with the tenants" to fix all the open violations, the spokesman said.