Brooklyn Landlord Charged in Taskforce's First Win
Authorities brought criminal charges Wednesday against a landlord they say drove tenants out of rent-regulated apartments by doing construction and demolition at his building and shutting off the heat.
The indictment charges Brooklyn landlord Daniel Melamed with three counts of unlawfully evicting tenants from rent-regulated apartments, endangering the welfare of a child and filing a false document. Authorities also accused the engineer he hired to oversee construction on the 14-unit building, Pirooz Soltanizadeh, of filing a false document. Both pleaded not guilty.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the Crown Heights landlord's arrest was the first to come from their joint task force launched in February to inspect properties that have been the subjects of harassment complaints.
"New York's real estate boom is generating jobs. It is creating revenue. But it also has put thousands of tenants at risk to unscrupulous landlords," Schneiderman said outside the building. "Bad landlords have an incredible incentive under the current laws to get rent-regulated tenants out of their buildings by any means necessary, and harassment is reaching new lows."
They have multiple pending investigations, Schneiderman said.
De Blasio said there have been too many abusive landlords in the city.
"Too many times they've gotten away with abusive actions toward tenants," he said.
Meanwhile, the state law for the city's rent regulations expired Tuesday, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders in Albany trying to negotiate an extension and possible revisions.
The old law needs to be changed because it contains an incentive for landlords to create vacancies so they can raise the rent, de Blasio said.
Authorities allege Melamed illegally shut off heat to rent-regulated tenants, even when outdoor temperatures fell below freezing, exposed tenants to lead dust up to 88 times higher than permissible levels and destroyed interior walls and common spaces, creating fire hazards.
They also allege he filed false documents with the city Department of Buildings, stating the building was vacant when all units were occupied, to avoid submitting a plan to ensure tenant safety during construction.
Attorney Seth Denenberg, representing Melamed, declined to comment on what he called "political grandstanding."
Attorney John Tasolides said Soltanizadeh was released on his own recognizance, though prosecutors requested bail, and they intend to defend against the charge aggressively.
Melamed bought the building in 2012 and owns and manages six others in the city, the attorney general's office said.