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Battling the Worst List Landlords

By Nayaba Arinde

Finding a home to rent can be something of a physical and emotional obstacle course. Community-minded landlords have a business ethic that supports local residents occupying their homes. Landlords with a maximum profit as their only bottom line frustrate the issue, as considerations of the renter, come a distant second to the high-income-based criteria.

Being on the worst landlord list does not seem to deter some of the said offenders as they rack up violations ad nauseum. A call or two to Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) does not amount to immediate repairs or recompense. Rats, leaking roofs, no hot water or heat, and peeling paint are complaints that renters simply endure with tone-deaf landlords, as they may withhold rent, open escrow accounts, protest, and file Housing Court appeals.

On Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ city-wide Worst Landlord Watchlist, there were a total of 626 buildings that house a total of 13,541 units. From November 2022 to October 2023, these buildings averaged 69,018 open Housing Preservation and Development violations.

In his information, PA Williams says his Worst Landlord Watchlist is an “information-sharing tool that enables tenants, public officials, advocates, and other concerned individuals to identify which residential property owners consistently flout City laws intended to protect the rights and safety of tenants.”

On Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024, Assemblywoman Stefani Zinerman hosted a press conference on Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, “the site of the number 3 worst landlord in NYC and the number 1 worst landlord in Brooklyn, according to the NYC Public Advocates 2023 Worst Housing List.”


Aiming to stabilize the housing market by preventing outside speculators “who are proven scammers and deed thieves from further disrupting community ecosystems and inflating property taxes,” Assemblywoman Zinerman has introduced “The House New Yorkers First Bill,” A9744. If passed in both houses, she said that it gives New Yorkers the chance to build back generational wealth. Meanwhile, dealing with substandard housing creates all manner of social and economic ills.

“We rallied against the injustices faced by countless tenants trapped in cycles of neglect and mistreatment. Housing is a fundamental right, yet far too many people endure mold-infested homes, lacking heat, hot water, or gas,” Assemblywoman Zinerman told Our Time Press, “We take the fight to the doorsteps of violators, empowering tenants with vital resources they need to safeguard themselves and increasing accountability for landlords through creating new legislation that expands the Worst Landlord List to upstate counties and increases penalties against the violators. Together, we demand safe, affordable, and fair housing for every community.”

According to the December 2023 Watchlist data, there are 335 developments mentioned reflecting 177,569 units, with 618,310 Open Work Orders (Jan 2023—Nov 2023), with an estimated $78,340,000,00 in cost of repairs.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) also finds itself on the Public Advocate’s Watchlist. “The city itself remains the overall worst landlord in New York City,” he tweeted.
While the HPD does not issue violations to NYCHA buildings, the number of issued and open work orders is taken into account.

Neither NYCHA nor the HPD responded to an Our Time Press request for comment.
Slumlords notoriously attempt to shield their liability with LLC registrations.
Johnathan Santana earned the dubious title of New York’s number one slumlord in the December 2023-released Watchlist. Reported as the head officer of 15 of the listed buildings with 3,293 violations, Daniel Ohebshalom is also listed as the designated head officer for the buildings. PA Williams is unimpressed with the tactic of the scofflaw landlords with their “widespread, unchecked, repeated violations that have led to horrific conditions at their properties.”


Last month Ohebshalom turned himself in to serve a 60-day stint in Rikers according to HPD for “endangering tenant health and safety and neglecting two Washington Heights buildings [705 and 709 West 170th Street in Manhattan], that have racked up 700 open housing violations, according to officials,” said Pix 11.
He was punched in the face on the second day of his jail term.

PA Williams said, “Johnathan Santana and Daniel Ohebshalom may be shameless in their negligence and predatory practices, as is clear in their record violations, but it’s clear that spotlighting and shaming them and other worst landlords in the city can have a meaningful impact.”

He stands by his December 2022 quote, “As rents rose, so did the average number of housing violations. There were nearly 30% more average violations on the list this year, and the top 10 worst landlords had a 44% increase. Jonathan Santana had 106% more average violations than the 2021 worst landlord.”

HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr., said, “Slumlords in New York City are officially on notice. Landlords in New York City will not get away with putting our families in unsafe, unhealthy, and downright unlivable conditions.”

Our Time Press was unable to reach representatives for either Santana or Ohbeshalom for a response by press time.