UPPER EAST SIDE — A billionaire property owner who landed on the city's "100 Worst Landlords in New York City" two years in a row is suing the public advocate for $15 million because, he claims, most of his buildings cited have no tenants.
Kamran Hakim, who owns multiple buildings across the city and was the 34th worst landlord on the list in 2015 and the 52nd worst in 2016, claims Public Advocate Letitia James didn't do her research and wants to be taken off the list.
"Having been placed on the watch list without any verification or due diligence by the Public Advocate as to why the violations exist has unfairly tarnished the good name, good will and reputation of 1205-15 First Associates LLC & Kamran Hakim," his lawyer, Darren Marks, wrote in a letter to James.
In fact, he wants the list abolished.
Hakim argues that four of the six buildings, located between 1205 and 1215 First Ave., which were cited in James's report are vacant and slated for demolition.
A spokeswoman for the public advocate initially declined to comment on Thursday afternoon, but later vowed to continue to track bad landlords.
"Tenants know they can count on Public Advocate James to stand up for them, even when it means taking on powerful landlords. The Public Advocate will continue to use the Worst Landlords List, and accompanying litigation and legislation, as a tool to protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous landlords," Anna Brower, the PA spokeswoman, said.
Marks said that a majority of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Department of Building violations were fixed before the list was published, so he wouldn't have qualified for it.
This isn't the first time James has included vacant buildings on her list. In 2014 and 2015, James included Mark Tress, who owns the Windermere at 400 W. 57th St. That building had 649 open violations but had long been vacant and is being restored.
As far as the public advocate was concerned, Hakim — who also owns buildings at 1296 Madison Ave., 4 E. 65th St., 210 E. 34th St., and 212 E. 34th St. — was responsible for 565 violations over seven buildings and 83 units in 2015, and 453 violations over four buildings in 2016.
Marks argues in the suit that the watch list doesn't take into consideration uncooperative tenants who refused to allow corrective work to be done, tenants that hold out in order to get millions of dollars in buyout money, whether the violations are for permanently vacated apartments, and whether certificates of correction were not filed for any work actually done.
"The public advocate's watch list creates an undue and avoidable harm to those wrongly identified as the 'worst landlords' and placed on the watch list," Marks said. He did not immediately return a call for comment on Thursday.
Marks sent at least two letters to the public advocate's office on July 5 and Nov. 2, asking it to stop publishing Hakim on the list because there was no "justification or reason."
In the property owner's lawsuit, which was filed on Dec. 20, seeks $15 million in compensation plus punitive damages, and wants the public advocate to stop publishing the watch list.
Hakim's Manhattan real estate empire is worth $1.8 billion, according to a 2014 Bloomberg article.