New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix today announced that the city has filed two lawsuits.
The lawsuits are against landlords Alma Realty Corp. and Empire Management America Corp. for allowing thousands of residents to live in dangerous conditions as a result of thousands of code violations. The suits seek to improve the living conditions of the thousands of tenants in more than 20 buildings collectively owned by the two landlords. Additionally, the city’s Law Department today entered into a separate agreement with a third landlord — Sentinel Real Estate Corporation — that sets time frames for repairs. The three actions seek the correction of approximately 2,100 violations in buildings located in Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
“All New Yorkers deserve to live in safe, clean homes, which is why we will not tolerate landlords who repeatedly flout the law and put the health and wellbeing of tenants at risk,” said Mayor Adams. “Alma Reality, Empire Management America, and Sentinel Real Estate allowed thousands of code violations to go unchecked for years, endangering the well-being of thousands of residents. These lawsuits and agreement underscore our administration’s commitment to more aggressive enforcement actions against bad actors and deterring this sort of negligence in the future.”
The three cases are a continuation of the city’s ramped-up, comprehensive enforcement against landlords violating the law. One lawsuit alleges that Alma has maintained dangerous and unsanitary conditions in 13 buildings, where more than 800 violations remain uncorrected. Some of the worst conditions in these buildings include deteriorating facades, defective electrical wiring, missing fire doors, lead-based paint hazards, and infestations of rats and mice. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) also previously sued Alma over two of these buildings.
The lawsuit against Empire is for hazardous conditions in eight buildings, where over 300 violations remain uncorrected. Among the worst conditions in those buildings are deteriorating facades, defective elevators, non-code-compliant sprinklers, illegal gas connections, and failure to maintain fire suppression systems. Empire has also previously been sued by HPD.
The agreement with Sentinel comes after more than 1,000 violations in its portfolio. The worst conditions in those buildings included unsafe facades, unsafe sidewalk sheds, illegal gas installations, unsafe electrical wiring, and unpermitted electrical work, roach and mice infestations, and lead-based paint hazards. Sentinel immediately agreed to make repairs and has already corrected approximately 200 violations. Repairs to the approximately 800 additional violations remain ongoing, and today’s agreement provides detailed timetables for the correction of the remaining violations in six buildings. The agreement also provides that if Sentinel does not demonstrate substantial compliance within those time frames, the city may file a complaint and seek a court order, which Sentinel cannot oppose.
“The city has zero tolerance for landlords who break the law and put tenants and the public at risk,” said Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix. “These new suits demonstrate our commitment to holding violators accountable and to ensuring landlords keep their buildings up to code. The Law Department has brought many lawsuits that have protected thousands of tenants, and we will continue these efforts on behalf of New Yorkers. They deserve nothing less.”
“Our administration will not allow landlords to abandon their tenants or force New Yorkers to live in unsafe conditions,” said New York City Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. “As part of our blueprint to house all New Yorkers, ‘Housing Our Neighbors,’ we make it clear that supporting tenants and giving them homes they can be proud of is a top priority. These legal actions demonstrate our fierce commitment to ensuring all New Yorkers have the safe, quality homes they deserve.”
The Law Department has opened more than 40 matters against landlords, seven of them in 2022. The city has now filed 25 suits against landlords since August 2019 and obtained court orders in 18 cases. Thousands of violations have already been corrected.
The Law Department — working closely with the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and the chief housing officer — developed a large database that compiles violations issued across city agencies, including HPD, the New York City Department of Buildings, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Fire Department of the City of New York, the New York City Department of Sanitation, and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The database weighs each violation by its severity and the degree of hazardousness, its impact on tenants, and the importance of achieving compliance. The three landlords in today’s lawsuits and agreements each own portfolios of buildings that include the worst-scoring buildings according to the database.
The Law Department develops these cases in close cooperation with the city’s chief housing officer and works in partnership with a multitude of city agencies charged with inspecting code violations.