On Monday, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an agreement with a notorious “tenant relocator,” sidelining him from operating in rent regulated buildings on the Lower East Side and in other neighborhoods. Neither the press release from the AG’s office nor a story in the Daily News specifically named the buildings in which Michel Pimienta of Misidor LLC was working. But today local tenant advocates are naming names, saying LES property owner Samy Mahfar “employed Pimienta extensively in the buildings he owns.”
Schneiderman’s investigation concluded that Pimienta “harassed rent-stabilized tenants” and that he was operating without a real estate license, both violations of state law. The attorney general’s news release noted, “tenant relocators are increasingly common in New York, and particularly in gentrifying areas in New York City where some landlords are seeking to reduce rent-regulated housing and increase rents.” The agreement with Pimienta requires him to cease tenant relocation activities for one year, to obtain a real estate broker license and to pay a $40,000 fine. He’ll need the AG’s approval before resuming operations.
The Daily News reported:
Mary Ellen Bizzarri, 34, ran into Pimienta in 2012 after her Ludlow St. building was purchased by a new owner. She says his threats were subtle. He kept putting off providing her with paperwork for a lease renewal, and when she declined a buyout offer, he told her “not to worry, nobody will touch you. When he finally said he had renewal documents, “He said he would come to my apartment.” She insisted they meet outside. “He said it felt strange that I wouldn’t let him into the apartment because it seemed like I was hiding something,” she recalled. “I was just really nervous that I would somehow lose my apartment because I couldn’t get my lease renewal.” In January, with a lawyer’s assistance, she negotiated a buyout and moved out.
Today, CAAAV and the Cooper Square Committee, two tenant advocacy organizations, put out their own press release:
Lower East Side tenants of 102 Norfolk St., 210 Rivington St., 22 Spring St., 143 Ludlow St., and 113 Stanton St. applaud the Attorney General’s investigation into “tenant relocator” Michel Pimienta… This is a huge victory for tenants familiar with Pimienta’s efforts to push out rent-stabilized tenants so their units could be converted into luxury units. The common denominator between these tenants and Pimienta is LES landlord Samy Mahfar, who employed Pimienta extensively in the buildings he owns.
The release included statements from State Sen. Daniel Squadron and City Council member Margaret Chin, praising the attorney general’s pursuit of unscrupulous tenant relocators. Chin went a step further, specifically linking Pimiento with Mahfar. She also referenced a glowing testimonial from Mahfar on Misidor’s defunct website.
The fact that Samy Mahfar actually celebrated his use of Michel Pimienta’s ‘invaluable’ relocation services just goes to show why we’re taking action to protect the tenants of 102 Norfolk Street and Mr. Mahfar’s other Lower East Side buildings… I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s successful effort to put Mr. Pimienta out of business, and I will continue to work with my elected colleagues, Cooper Square Committee and CAAAV to stop Mr. Mahfar from further endangering the welfare of his tenants.
In response, Mahfar told us earlier today that Pimienta has not been allowed in any of his buildings for at least the past year-and-a-half. “People were not comfortable with him,” said Mahfar. “He was too aggressive for some people.” Steven Ye, a former tenant at 102 Norfolk St. who recently accepted a buyout offer, said this afternoon, “Pimienta was not under Samy Mahfar’s thumb.” Ye said it was his understanding that Pimienta took it upon himself to enter the Norfolk Street building without approval. Mahfar said Pimienta was barred from the property when his presence there was brought to management’s attention. At the same time, Mahfar added, some tenants liked Pimienta and believed he did a good job facilitating buyouts.
In the past several months, Council member Chin and her staff have been meeting with Mahfar to address various construction issues at 102 Norfolk St. Just this month, she and other elected officials went public over lead exposure in the building, which is undergoing a gut renovation. Mahfar expressed surprise that Chin also went public regarding the Misidor situation, since their offices are in regular contact and, he said, his firm has been an “open book” in its dealings with local elected officials. Mahfar noted that the testimonial on Misidor’s website is very old.