Lead Contamination Leads to Another Lawsuit Against Notorious NYC Landlord

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, the Village Voice
113 Stanton Street
Residents of 113 Stanton Street are suing oft-embattled landlord Samy Mahfar for harassment, arguing that by using unsafe construction tactics, Mahfar is — stop us if you've heard this one before — pressuring them to move out of their rent-stabilized apartments and making their lives a nightmare.

How much of a nightmare are we talking? Their apartment complex is said to be filled with more than 200-times the legal amount of lead.

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Residents Brave (Seriously) Bitter Cold to Fight to Preserve Historic Brooklyn Bank Building

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, Village Voice
Arthur Warren, who has lived in East New York since childhood, says the neighborhood needs more youth programs, not a medical center: "We don't have a place for our kids to go."
On February 24, about eight East New York residents stood on a post-industrial street corner, bundled in boots and scarves as they braved the brutal minus-6-degree wind chill (the actual temperature was a balmy 19 degrees) to protest the demolition of an iconic neighborhood bank, which currently sits at 91 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The four-story building, formerly home to the East New York Savings Bank, was built in 1889 in the Renaissance Revival style by respected American architect Richard Upjohn Jr. It's one of the few tall buildings in the mostly low-density neighborhood. And community members like Chris Banks, director of East New York United Concerned Citizens, say it's a local treasure.


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Haggling in the Hallways of NYC Housing Court Is Hard If You Don't Speak English

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, Village Voice
New York City comptroller Scott Stringer stands with advocates Monday outside Brooklyn Housing Court to demand more multilingual legal information from the state.
Tenants who face their landlords in housing court go up against experienced attorneys in the courtroom and when haggling in the hallways. Now imagine waging that battle without knowing what anyone is talking about.

That's what Maria Cortes, 62, dealt with when her landlords tried to evict her after she refused to accept a buyout in exchange for leaving her Brooklyn apartment.

"It's very frustrating to talk to someone and know they don't understand you," says Cortes, who switches between fragmented English and speaking Spanish through a translator. "It was difficult, it was very difficult."

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City Tenants'-Rights Plan Gets Praise, but Questions About Development Remain

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Nick Lucchesi, Village Voice
"As with 300 Nassau [shown], we see tenant harassment take the form of neglecting and destroying buildings," says Adam Meyers, a tenants'-rights lawyer.
Efforts by New York mayor Bill de Blasio to curb the strong-arm and harassment tactics used by landlords and residential property owners are receiving mixed reviews from tenants'-rights advocates across the city.

De Blasio and state attorney general Eric Schneiderman spent much of February 19 trumpeting their new tenant-harassment task force, which, they say, will foster greater communication between the city and state in prosecuting bad landlords. But some housing advocates say the mayor is sending mixed messages, as the city is also currently in the process of rezoning neighborhoods with large swaths of affordable housing and allowing developers to build more luxury residences.

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84-Year-Old Cobbler Shop Wins Lease Battle to Halt Duane Reade Expansion, Stay in Business

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, Village Voice
Wesley Oliviera, 30, buffs a high-heeled boot at the newly-not-evicted Jim's Shoe Repair.
On February 17, beloved East Side cobbler's den Jim's Shoe Repair was celebrating with colorful helium balloons and a banner that read "Here to stay!"

The 84-year-old shop has already scored legions of celebrity and civilian fans alike, from Kim Cattrall to Ed Sullivan. Now, after two years of negotiations, it's notched a victory for Old New York by striking a deal with landlord SL Green to avoid eviction and halt a planned expansion of a neighboring Duane Reade.

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Judge Rules That Greenpoint Landlords Failed to Keep Building Livable

Categories: Real Estate

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Nick Lucchesi
300 Nassau on February 4.
A Brooklyn Housing Court judge has ordered a Greenpoint property manager to relinquish authority over his badly damaged apartment building and has appointed a city-approved administrator to oversee the building's repairs.

The ruling, which was handed down on Monday, February 2, comes more than a year after tenants at 300 Nassau Avenue went to court alleging that the property manager, Joel Israel of JBI Management, intentionally damaged the building and ordered invasive construction work — which resulted in a broken bathroom floor and a rodent infestation — with the intention of forcing them out of their rent-stabilized homes.

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Councilwoman Margaret Chin Is Fighting to Make 'Bad Landlords' Pay Up-Front

Categories: Real Estate

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Courtesy of the office of Margaret Chin
Margaret Chin
New York's slumlords force out their rent-stabilized tenants in a number of horrific and well-documented ways: They tear out fireproofing, they punch holes in basement walls, they take axes to boilers and water mains. But the real problems are vacate orders that put tenants out on the street.

Lower Manhattan councilwoman Margaret Chin has again taken up her fight to stop those damning orders at the source.

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Here Are New York City's Most Frequently Blocked Driveways of 2014

Categories: Real Estate

Katie Toth for the Village Voice
It's not easy driving a car in New York City. Even just getting from point A to point B, you've gotta weave through a maze of traffic, one-way streets, and, most recently, determined demonstrators. Then comes finding a place to park, an adventure all its own.

And even if you're lucky enough to have your own private driveway, it's not always a guarantee for a simpler life. Especially if your building boasts one of the most frequently blocked driveways of the past year.

Ben Wellington, a visiting assistant professor at the Pratt Institute who also runs the popular blog I Quant NY, looked at open data for 311 calls and found the ten properties with the highest numbers of complaints about selfish rogues blocking their driveways. Five are in Brooklyn; four are in Queens; the "winner" is in the Bronx.

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Look Out for These Eleven New York City Scams

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All illustrations by Curtis Tinsley
Tourists are easy (and the only?) targets for MTA card scammers.
December is the final busy month before New York sees its tourism dip in January and February, and with all those out-of-towners comes the opportunity for easy money to be made at subway stations, in Times Square, and even at one of the city's museums. So, with a month left before Christmas, we present this 2014 guide to New York scams, old and new. These first-hand accounts show you're always capable of having the wool pulled over your eyes, whether you're a tourist or a lifelong New Yorker. Happy holidays!

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The Third Rail: How It Feels to Support New York City FC, the Team That Doesn't Yet Exist

The Third Rail is the name of the supporters group for New York City FC, a team that has yet to play a game, put together a full squad, or find a permanent stadium. And up until the 11 a.m. hour on Thursday, they didn't know what their team's jersey would look like.

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