[Photo at No. 444 from May 2015 by Stacie Joy]
Updated to include the Gothamist post.
Landlord Raphael Toledano is still causing grief for East Village residents.
The controversial landlord, who bought up dozens of East Village properties only to foreclose on many of them later, is still reportedly the owner — via an LLC — of 444 E. 13th St. between Avenue A and First Avenue.
According to published reports, Toledano filed for bankruptcy on the building, and is attempting to reject the rent-stabilized leases for a number of residents in the building, as NBC 4 first reported.
Per Gothamist, Toledo/the LLC is asking for a bankruptcy court to terminate the tenants' leases, on the grounds that a proposed $8.2 million sale of the property can't go through while the rent-stabilized leases are in place. (The Gothamist piece has a lot of good details not reported elsewhere.)
Now, however, New York Attorney General Letitia James and a handful of housing officials from the city and state have intervened to help the tenants, eight of whom have been withholding rent due to inadequate heat, broken or defective plumbing, garbage in the hallway and rodents, as Patch noted. (The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development website lists 68 outstanding violations.)
James and the housing officials joined in an action in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of tenants at No. 444. Here's more via a media advisory from the AG's office:
Both the City and State are opposing the building owner's application to reject tenants' leases, an application that is a thinly-veiled attempt to flout rent regulation laws and displace tenants.
"Bankruptcy Court should not be used as a tool to unjustly oust rent-stabilized New Yorkers from their homes," James said. "In filing this motion, my office is working to ensure that the tenants are not displaced. Housing is a right, and we will continue to use every legal tool available to stand up for tenants and to enforce their rights."
Local City Councilmember Carlina Rivera pointed out Toledano's ugly past as a landlord.
"The owner of 444 East 13th St. has spent years illegally harassing the tenants living in these rent-stabilized apartments, and this legal maneuver is just the latest shady tactic to remove these long-time New Yorkers from their homes," she said in a statement. "Bad actors across New York need to be put on notice — our government is in the business of protecting and expanding rent-regulated apartments, and I certainly will not sit idly by while harassment takes place in my District."
James and Rivera both took part in a rally outside 444 E. 13th St. yesterday, as PIX 11 reported.
For years, these residents have stood resilient in the face of attacks by their predatory landlords. Today we rallied to send a message that greed is not a case for displacement & won’t be tolerated. Thanks to @TishJames @MTorresSpringer @NYSHCR & @GOLESNYC for standing united. pic.twitter.com/SaCzvXCtz5— Carlina Rivera 利華娜 (@CarlinaRivera) March 13, 2019
This is the address where many people first heard about the twentysomething Toledano. In the spring of 2015, tenants at No. 444 accused Toledano, and a management company he reportedly hired (then later fired), of harassment and intimidation.
There are tape recorded conversations where a rep for Goldmark Property Management reportedly said, among other things to a rent-stabilized tenant: "I'm here, really, to help you. Because if it were up to the owners, they would just drop dynamite on the whole building and everyone would figure it out."
(The Times published the audio recordings here... Gothamist posted them here.)
In May 2016, Toledano agreed to pay a little more than $1 million to settle claims that he harassed the tenants, according to The Real Deal. The Times reported that most of the the tenants are "low-wage workers of Mexican descent who pay modest rents for the neighborhood and have lived in their building for decades."
In previous years, Toledano purchased 28 buildings in two separate portfolios from the Tabak family for a total of $140 million. Experienced real-estate players raised red flags about Toledano's heavy reliance on debt, per The Real Deal.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Claim: Landlord of 444 E. 13th St. threatened 'to drop dynamite on the building'
Cleaning up 444 E. 13th St.
Report: State investigating East Village landlord Raphael Toledano
Health Department to inspect Raphael Toledano's East Village properties for toxic levels of lead dust