New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against Marolda Properties, a local landlord accused of using a variety of illegal and unethical tactics to intimidate rent stabilized tenants. Marolda owns many buildings throughout the Lower East Side and Chinatown.
The prosecution is the result of an investigation undertaken into 2014 by the AG and the governor’s Tenant Protection Unit. The lawsuit, filed in state supreme court, accuses Marolda of pursuing legal action against tenants, falsely alleging that they weren’t actually living in their apartments. According to a press release:
The lawsuit also alleges that defendants refused to renew tenants’ legally-required leases, overcharged and failed to account for rent paid by tenants, did not conduct necessary and proper repairs and renovations, and engaged in other harassing, deceptive and retaliatory behavior. The suit seeks a court order prohibiting defendants from engaging in these kinds of practices in the future, directing them to pay damages and/or restitution to tenants who were harmed, disgorge all profits that resulted from their illegal practices, pay penalties for their illegal conduct, create comprehensive policies for employees to follow and engage a third-party administrator to monitor compliance with the law.
In addition to Marolda Properties, the lawsuit named several companies set up to run individual buildings. They include: Green Leaf Associates LLC, Forsyth Green LLC, Forsyth Blue LLC, 83-85 Baxter Street LLC, 7 Rivington Street LLC, 90 Elizabeth St. LLC, Ludlow 65 Realty LLC, 13-15 Essex Street LLC, 145 Ave. C. LLC and 100 Forsyth Associates LLC.
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities and other local advocacy groups have helped residents mobilize against Marolda. In the past, lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individual tenants. Housing rights groups rallied in front of one of Marolda’s buildings, 90 Elizabeth St., in August of 2014. Here’s what CAAAV posted about today’s developments on its Facebook page:
When working-class Asian and Latino immigrant tenants organize because they are tired of the harassment and white collar crime committed on them every day. Tenants are making the system hold landlords accountable for stealing their homes from gentrifying communities. We applaud Governor Cuomo, Tenant Protection Unit and the Attorney General’s office for doing what is necessary to preserve the critical rent-stabilized housing stock in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, where Marolda preyed on low-income immigrant tenants. Predatory landlords, be aware! WE ARE WATCHING!… Tenants of multiple Marolda-owned buildings made this possible with the support of CAAAV, MFY Legal Services, Inc., University Settlement Society of New York Copper Square Committee and Asian Americans for Equality
Tenants with concerns about their landlords can call the AG’s office at: call 800-771-7755. Rent regulated tenants should also call the Tenant Protection Unit at 718-739-6400 or email the office at: TPUinfo@nyshcr.org.
UPDATE 2:15 p.m. Here’s a statement from State Sen. Daniel Squadron:
Too often, harassment tactics are used by bad actors against rent-regulated tenants. It’s unacceptable when Marolda does it, and it’s unacceptable when Croman does it. I’ve long worked with community members and colleagues to address patterns of harassment and deplorable conditions that are part of a coordinated strategy to drive people from their homes and destroy affordable housing. As we continue steps toward justice for these tenants, state action continues to be a critical component in sending one message loud and clear: tenant harassment is simply unacceptable anywhere in New York. I’m proud to have worked with the TPU and AG to have exposed some of these concerns in my district, and will continue to work against these practices. Thank you to the Governor, TPU, AG, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, the Cooper Square Committee, MFY Legal Services, Asian Americans for Equality, University Settlement, and my colleagues.”
UPDATE 4:30 p.m. City Council members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez are now out with a statement:
Every year, hundreds of tenants who live under the thumb of unscrupulous landlords come to our offices for help to fight back against constant harassment. These landlords, like Marolda Properties, place profits over people regardless of whether tenants are longtime residents, seniors or families with children. They are willing to deploy numerous harassment tactics, such as unnecessary construction and unsubstantiated threats of eviction through housing court, to force tenants out. We are grateful for Attorney General Schneiderman’s continued efforts to hold landlords like Marolda accountable for their actions. As he moves forward with this case, we will continue working with our colleagues in government, community based organizers, and legal service providers to protect our residents from harassment, discrimination, and neglect.