Manhattan Landlord Charged for Harassing Rent-Protected Tenants to Force Them Out
Recently, Steven Croman, a landlord whose companies had bought up more than 140 Manhattan apartment buildings, turned himself in to the authorities after he was charged with 20 felonies, including grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, and a scheme to defraud, relating to accusations he inflated his rental income to secure more than $45 million in bank loans. He faces up to 25 years in prison. Croman pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
The New York State attorney general’s office also filed a lawsuit against Croman seeking to obtain millions of dollars in restitution to tenants and penalties. In its lawsuit, the attorney general’s office accused Mr. Croman of harassing and coercing “countless working-class and low-income families out of their longtime homes.” Mr. Croman allegedly turned vacant rent-regulated apartments into lucrative market-rate units, often with illegal construction that violated lead-safety laws and endangered tenants who remained in the buildings, court documents said.
The attorney general’s suit also included Croman’s director of security, Anthony Falconite, a former New York City police officer accused of abusing his former position, and said he intimidated tenants into giving up their apartments.
Croman is accused of using various methods to force out rent-controlled tenants. His employees referred to tenants as “targets” and competed to push out the most, the lawsuit said. A property manager who persuaded a tenant to take a buyout was said to have earned a bonus of up to $10,000.
According to the lawsuit, his companies did construction without obtaining the proper permits at least 175 times. He also regularly told his employees to ignore orders to stop working from inspectors with the city’s Buildings Department. The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also found impermissibly elevated levels of lead dust in Mr. Croman’s buildings more than 20 times, including levels over 65 times the legal threshold, according to the attorney general’s office. Even after the health department ordered Croman to fix the lead hazards, he did not, the lawsuit said.