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Public Advocate Puts 33 Self-Governing Co-ops on Worst Landlord List

By Gustavo Solis | January 21, 2016 12:20pm
 This HDFC co-op on 127th Street is one of 33 in Manhattan to be placed on the Public Advocate's Worst Landlord list.
This HDFC co-op on 127th Street is one of 33 in Manhattan to be placed on the Public Advocate's Worst Landlord list.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

HARLEM — More than 30 self-managed low-income co-ops unwittingly landed themselves on Public Advocate Letitia James' "Worst Landlord" list by reporting their own boards to the city.

“None of these buildings are supposed to be on this list,” said Elsia Vasquez, a housing advocate. “The fact that they are calling 311 on themselves is appalling because at the end of the day these co-ops are supposed to sustain themselves but instead they are giving themselves all of these violations.”

Of the 196 Manhattan buildings features in the 2015 list, 33 of them were Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) co-op program. The city created a program in which residents of these co-ops can take over ownership of distressed properties from their negligent landlords after getting training.

It is one of the city’s only programs that provides low-income New Yorkers a path to home ownership.  

Critics of the program say residents don’t receive enough training and support to operate efficiently, which is why they end up on the worst landlord list. Many of them also owe millions in taxes to the city, DNAinfo previously reported.

Six of the co-ops in the “Worst Landlord” list are candidates for the Third Party Transfer program, which could result in people losing ownership of their homes. If they end up on the program, the city would transfer ownership to a private organization that would be responsible for correcting the violations and manage the tenants.

The department of Housing Preservation and Development, which formed the HDFC co-ops, are considering steps to improve mismanaged buildings. They are working with a non-profit to assist with board development and provide financial management training for boards and shareholders, a spokeswoman said.

Residents said their inclusion in the list did not come as a shock.

“I’m not surprised we are on the list,” said a tenant of 448 Saint Nicholas Avenue, which has 213 violations. “There are a lot of problems with this board. What they need is to be more organized.”

Some of the most recent violations are for a leaky roof and mold, records show.

The tenant asked for her name to be withheld because she is fighting her co-op board over repairs and does not want to risk retaliation by publicly speaking out against them. She said many of her neighbors call 311 because they are not aware of the fact that their board is the one responsible for maintaining the building.

In HDFC co-ops, residents are in charge of maintaining their own unit and the board is tasked with maintaining the common areas.

The Public Advocate’s office declined to answer questions about the co-ops on the record, adding that they plan to remove them from the list.

The Public Advocate also included a long-vacant apartment building on West 57th Street — which hasn't had a tenant since 2009 — on their worst landlord list.