New York's Worst Landlord

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tom Robbins, investigative journalist in residence at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and former longtime columnist at the Village Voice, and Harold Shultz, senior fellow at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and former special counsel at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, discuss CUNY and City Limitsinvestigation into Frank Palazzolo,  the Bronx's "phantom landlord," and how to protect tenants from similar circumstances.  


Tom Robbins and Harold Shultz

Comments [9]

Robert Lewis from New York

After a lengthy hearing the Court found in favor of the landlord and against the tenant. The Court wrote a detailed factual Decision. L & T 096312/11 in Civil Court, Kings County is the Index Number. I did not wish to comment as the case was already before the Court. I do understand accepting a person's statement as being true, particularly if she is portraying herself as a victim. I do not know if Tom Robbins reads these comments or even cares about them. I do not seek a retraction or apology. All that I do wish is that the truth be told. I have given my email address and if anyone wishes to contact me, I will forward the entire Decision so they can read the actual facts.

Apr. 29 2012 01:40 AM
Nekoro Gomes from New York, NY

For those who are interested in reading more about "The Phantom Landlord" and purchasing the issue, you can visit:

Mar. 30 2012 11:38 AM
Ronald from NYC

As an attorney and Hearing Officer for the City, I have a great deal of experience regarding sub-standard buildings. Regarding a miscreant landlord--"phantom" or otherwise--my informed belief is that the best route to "cures" is not via HPD and the Housing Code enforcement, charges returnable to Housing Court. Go to the Buildings Dept., FDNT, whatever fits. E.G. When a ceiling falls down, it is usually a plumbing violation under the Building Code. You can report Building and Fire violations via 311, and if your "phantom landlord" ignores the resultant Notice of Violation (in plain, the "ticket," ultimately this results in a default judgment. Whether the "phantom landlord"is cited or not, in the end this question is irrelevant. If found in violation, the "owner" (generic term) is fined for the maximum amount under NYC law and then the law piles on more and more violations with default penalties. These repeats for failure to certify correction--and so on and on with this latter charge. Before you know it you, landlord, are in a six-figure penalty predicament. And the amount is entered as a judgment--or, beyond that, as a lien--against the premises. So even if you, "phantom landlord," hide behind a mortgage, you'll never get another loan with all these liens/judgments recorded against the premises and unpaid. I know this is a good approach because I have seen as much first hand. But, believe me, it requires enormous persistence by the complaining citizen.

Mar. 30 2012 11:20 AM
June Cross

The link to the article doesn't work in Chrome browser - and is still spinning in Firefox

Mar. 30 2012 11:02 AM
Hugh Sansom

We can be sure that if one of Frank Palazzolo's tenants actually damage one of his buildings, that tenant would feel the full brunt of Palazzolo's and the city's wrath. Why? Because in the eyes of Michael Bloomberg and the city housing courts, landlord's can do no wrong.

Mar. 30 2012 10:59 AM

In my Bronx apartment I once went many weeks with no heat, electricity or water. In spite of daily calls to 311 with inspector visits to the site, it was four months before service was restored.

Mar. 30 2012 10:58 AM
Renter from East village

Putting aside the entertainment value of outrageous behavior by some landlords and- also tenants usual for the voices 10 worst stories.
The Emergency Housing Act was changed to the “affordable housing destruction act” by a state senate, bought out by real estate interest, when they put in the vacancy deregulation statutes into the law over a decade ago. The altered law gave landlords the reason and motivation to become bad landlords. Things are the same today- remember Senator Espada from the Bronx- but have gotten worse since the Citizens United decision.(who thought it could be worse than it was).
The popular idea of a landlord struggling to survive in a rent-regulated market is a myth advanced by the Real estate interests to justify maintaining a speculation frenzy on affordable housing. That is why the rents in NYC are “so damn hi”. The vacancy rate in NYC is down to around 2.5% and dropping because landlords are warehousing stabilized apartments when they become vacant rather than rent them at an affordable rent. Yes, ethical landlords and real estate developers do exist somewhere, but the current NY State and City housing policy encourages the unethical predatory equity business plan now used by speculators. Mr. Robbins and others have written on this subject before countering the myths propagated in the real estate advertising dependent NYC newspapers (including the V. Voice). The increase in tenant harassment and bad landlord behavior is the result of a state senate that has been corrupted by the immense wealth of the most valuable real estate market in the world. Any landlord with a rent regulated building is guaranteed a 5% profit above costs by the current rent laws. The landlord must just show proof his earnings are less. Not likely to happen. Check out this video to understand how “bad” landlords are created by NY housing policy.
The deregulation philosophy of Charles Koch advanced by the conservative Cato think tank is the creed of the Real Estate Board of NY that lobbies the state senate. Their utopian vision of an ideal free market where every one is ethical and obeys the laws is belied by the actions of their spawn- bad landlords.
PS. This comment will be followed by a comment from the PR firm of the Real Estate Board of NY.

Mar. 30 2012 10:55 AM
Eric from NYC

If the landlord was in violation of a regulation, which caused this death or injury, then it is "negligence per se" in a civil action brought by the deceased.

Shouldn't it be easier for a plaintiff to recover?

Mar. 30 2012 10:53 AM
Peter from North Carolina

I moved from Brooklyn recently, but have been following the eviction case of Summer Brennan. Here are some links:

Has Mr. Robbins been following this case and have any thoughts?

Mar. 30 2012 09:04 AM

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