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Crown Heights slumlord arrested, faces civil liabilities

The current situation of the expiration of rent regulation laws due to the intransigency of the state senate, who refused to pass a bill on tenant protections, has led to some New York City slumlords to harass their rent-controlled tenants.

There are approximately 1 million rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments in the city that provide homes for 2 million New Yorkers.

According to Mayor de Blasio, "The current rent law must be changed and improved because it rewards vacancies." He added that, "unscrupulous landlord[s] will do everything . . . legal or illegal, to get that vacancy, so they can jack up the rent an additional 20 percent."

Allegedly, one such landlord from Great Neck, Long Island, was doing just that to the tenants of his Brooklyn apartments at 1578 Union Street in Crown Heights. He was recently arrested for filing false documents in order to circumvent requirements to submit "tenant protection plans." These plans provide safety protocols for tenants while occupied buildings are renovated. Reportedly, the plans he filed state the building was vacant.

The landlord's contractor was also arrested on charges of endangering a child's welfare.

Some of the landlord's alleged harassment included turning off the hot water and heat to rent-controlled tenants' apartments over last winter, tearing down walls and generating lead dust that resulted in levels greater than 88 times over the cut-off established by the Environmental Protection Agency. During one inspection, over 200 violations were noted. Tenants told investigators the toxic dust was so prevalent that they had to wedge wet towels under doors to keep it out of their apartments.

The landlord and contractor were arraigned on three counts of unlawful eviction in Brooklyn Criminal Court. Convictions could net the men prison sentences ranging from 16 months to four years.

In addition to the criminal charges, the two men could face civil litigation from the tenants for the hazardous conditions they created in order to oust the residents from their rent-stabilized homes.

Source: The Village Voice, "Brooklyn Slumlord Daniel Melamed Arrested for Harassing Tenants," Nick Lucchesi, June 17, 2015

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