A man whose 11 Bronx buildings average more than 200 violations each topped the 2015 Worst Landlords Watchlist, released Nov. 23 by Public Advocate Letitia James. Ved Parkash, whose buildings contain 720 units, had more than 2,200 code violations outstanding with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and had received 134 complaints from the city Department of Buildings.
Almost 3,400 landlords made the overall watchlist. To qualify, they had to own buildings that averaged more than three serious violations or complaints per apartment, or two per unit in buildings with 35 or more apartments. Parkash’s building at 750 Grand Concourse had more than 300 such problems in its 99 apartments, including peeling lead paint, missing window guards, and failure to provide heat and hot water.
The rest of the top five were Harry D. Silverstein, for seven buildings in Flatbush, Queens, and the Bronx; Yechiel Weinberger, for 11 buildings concentrated in Crown Heights; veteran slumlord Moshe Piller, for eight buildings in the Bronx and Brooklyn; and Allan Goldman, for 28 smaller buildings, mostly in East Harlem, east Midtown, and the Upper East Side.
“The Worst Landlords Watchlist puts these bad actors on notice, and is a vital resource and tool for tenants,” James said in a statement. “The Watchlist is not a cure-all, but we have seen improvements in a number of buildings.”
The list was started in 2010 by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in 2010, but the concept came from the annual “Ten Worst Landlords” feature in the old Village Voice newspaper. This year, it added data from the Department of Buildings and enables tenants to track their landlords’ Housing Court activity. Its Web page includes a map of the city with purple dots marking buildings owned by the 100 worst landlords, and orange dots signifying others meeting the watchlist criteria.
The list contained a few errors, pointed out by the real-estate press. Crain’s noted that Bushwick landlord David Behin was listed despite having acquired the building through a state program that tries to put distressed buildings into more competent management. James’ office removed him from the list.
Another criticism might be that by focusing solely on violations, the list is more likely to name traditional slumlords, those who run decaying and unsafe buildings, as the “worst,” and miss owners who try to harass tenants out in order to renovate their apartments for luxury housing—such as the notorious Steven Croman. City Limits editor Jarrett Murphy, who praised the list as an “honorable tradition,” wondered if public shaming had lost its sting—because “truly horrible landlords do not care who knows that they are terrible landlords. They will wear that scarlet letter, literally, all the way to the bank.”
These are minor glitches for tenant advocates, who laud the list as essential. Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge at the Legal Aid Society, called it “an invaluable tool that allows residents who otherwise might not have the resources, to stand up to bad landlords and hold them accountable for unsanitary and poor living conditions in their buildings.”