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Living in Bronx's Worst Building Means Having No Bathroom, Tenant Says

By Eddie Small | October 13, 2016 5:51pm
 Public Advocate Letitia James' 2016 "Worst Landlords" list includes a building where a 72-year-old woman says she has not been able to use her bathroom for two months.
Worst Landlord List
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MORRISANIA — Clara Wainwright, 72, has to walk down a flight of stairs to use the bathroom after her landlord ripped out her plumbing.

She lives in what Public Advocate Letitia James dubbed Thursday as the worst building in The Bronx after it was cited 525 times for city housing violations.

But building owner, Seth A. Miller, is not even the worst landlord in the city.

According to James' list he ranks as 38th on the Public Advocate's list.

James released the 2016 worst landlord list at a boisterous rally in Foley Square on Thursday morning filled with chants of "Fight fight fight! Housing is a right!" and "Tenants united will never be defeated!”

This year’s list includes Department of Building violations and data on tax liens from the Department of Finance for the first time, according to the Public Advocate’s Office. It highlights only the worst 100 landlords in the city and the 20 worst buildings in each borough.

This list can be read in full at www.landlordwatchlist.com, and this year’s top 10 worst landlords are:

  1. Harry Silverstein: 575 units in eight buildings with 2,032 HPD and 50 DOB violations
  2. Allan Goldman: 187 units in 25 buildings with 1,193 HPD and 15 DOB violations
  3. Efstathios Valiotis: 237 units in eight buildings with 1,077 HPD and 64 DOB violations
  4. Martin Kirzner: 280 units in 11 buildings with 1,036 HPD and 23 DOB violations
  5. Ved Parkash: 257 units in four buildings with 992 HPD and 28 DOB violations
  6. Mark Silber: 216 units in 10 buildings with 998 HPD and five DOB violations
  7. Michael Niamonitakis: 225 units in five buildings with 936 HPD and 13 DOB violations
  8. Felix Gomez: 260 units in six buildings with 939 HPD and three DOB violations
  9. Rawle Isaacs: 214 units in four buildings with 869 HPD and 22 DOB violations
  10. Joel Kohn: 152 units in 23 buildings with 823 HPD and 33 DOB violations

Seven of the landlords who were in the Top 10 last year no longer have that dubious distinction. Four have moved further down the list due to improvements in their buildings, and three are no longer on the list at all, according to the Public Advocate's office.

At least one of the landlords, Valiotis, took issue with his place on the list.

He said he was "very disappointed" to be on the list, arguing that he has renovated his buildings extensively since purchasing them and remains committed to making additional improvements.

"The reason that records kept by NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) do not reflect current conditions is because the process of administratively removing the violations is ongoing," he said. "It is unfortunate that the Public Advocate's Office doesn't accurately reflect the current condition of these buildings."

James declined to comment on Valiotis' complaint, and HPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At the rally, James said tenants in buildings on her list had the misfortune of living in places where their landlords care more about making money than about providing decent housing.

“They have landlords who unfortunately don’t care or are basically negligent in terms of addressing the conditions they live in,” she said. “All they care about, unfortunately, is the bottom line: money.”

Wainwright, who has lived her the Prospect Avenue building for about 30 years, had her entire bathroom gutted by the landlord to deal with a plumbing problem, she said.

The landlord gave her a key to a vacant and decrepit apartment on the floor below her that is supposed to be under construction so she could use the bathroom there.

The elderly woman has been putting up with this arrangement for the past two months and said she is getting sick of it.

“You’d rather be in your own house than going downstairs in the cold to use somebody else’s bathroom,” she said.

Sigfredo Campos, the building's 46-year-old superintendent, said he would like to make more repairs at the building, but the landlord does not give him the right materials to do so.

He maintained that the landlord was trying to get current tenants out of their apartments so that he could renovate them and jack up the rent.

“He wants to make the new apartments, the new residents pay more money,” Campos said.

Miller could not be reached for comment.

James said conditions at the building have reached the point where she would like the city to take it over, while City Councilman Rafael Salamanca, who represents the district where 919 Prospect Ave. is located, derided Miller as a "slumlord" who should be ashamed of himself.

"I have words for Mr. Seth Miller: I want to take your building away," he said. "You are an irresponsible landlord. We should be able to take your building away."