City Sues Owners for Building Code Violations, Dangerous Living Conditions
Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix recently announced the filing of two lawsuits against Alma Realty Corp. and Empire Management America Corp. for the failure to fix thousands of code violations that created dangerous living conditions for tenants. The lawsuits seek to improve the living conditions of tenants in more than 20 buildings collectively owned by the two entities. Additionally, the city also announced a settlement with Sentinel Real Estate Corporation to establish a timeline for repairs. The three actions seek to correct approximately 2,100 violations in buildings located in Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
The actions were filed on behalf of the City of New York, and the Commissioners of DOB, HPD, FDNY, DOHMH, and DEP. And the three cases represent the latest efforts and a continuation of the city’s ramped-up, comprehensive enforcement against landlords violating the law. The NYC 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.
One lawsuit alleges that Alma Realty 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. HPD also previously sued Alma Realty 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 Real Estate Corp 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. The company immediately agreed to make repairs and has already corrected approximately 200 violations. Repairs to the approximately 800 additional violations remain ongoing, and the agreement provides detailed timetables for correction of the remaining violations in six buildings. The agreement also provides that if the company doesn’t demonstrate substantial compliance within those time frames, the city may file a complaint and seek a court order, which the company can’t oppose.
Database Analysis Used to Identify Defendants
In identifying the three landlords, the NYC Law Department worked closely with the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and the chief housing officer. They utilized a large database that compiles violations issued across city agencies, including HPD, the Department of Buildings, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Fire Department, the Department of Sanitation, and the 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 the lawsuits each own portfolios of buildings that include the worst-scoring buildings according to the database.