Tenants at 159 Stanton St. have filed a lawsuit in housing court against Steve Croman, the controversial landlord already in the cross hairs of the state attorney general. The residents say renovations in the building have made their lives miserable, and that they’ve become victims of intimidation and harassment.
They braved bitter cold temperatures this morning, gathering in front of the building near Clinton Street with organizers from the Cooper Square Committee and lawyers from the Urban Justice Center. Also on hand were State Sen. Daniel Squadron and a representative of City Council member Margaret Chin.
According to the tenant association, residents have been forced to endure collapsing ceilings, dust and debris, mold, rats and floods. The lawsuit also alleges that poor security has led to numerous burglaries.
Back in May, Croman was arrested and charged in criminal court with multiple felonies, including grand larceny, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. He’s being prosecuted by the State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is also suing Croman in civil court. The notorious landlord owns more than 180 buildings in Manhattan, some of them on the Lower East Side.
Among the residents speaking today was Francis Di Donato, who moved into 159 Stanton 25 years ago. He has a 12-year-old son. Di Donato said Croman took him to court over money he did not owe. He was also, “visited by complete strangers who were really menacing,” [Croman has been accused of using unscrupulous “tenant relocators” to drive rent regulated residents out of his buildings.] Di Donato said he was offered, “pathetic amounts of money to move out.” There have been recurring leaks in the ceiling and cracks in the walls. One day he came home to find a gaping hole in the ceiling that burglars used to ransack his apartment.
Senator Squadron said, “Unfortunately we’ve seen it again and again and again with landlords whose strategy it is to drive you out of your homes, your lawfully protected homes, in order to make a quick buck, against the law and against every sense of decency and morals.” He pledged to stand with the residents as they wage a protracted fight against Croman.
According to a press release from Cooper square Committee, “Nearly half the apartments are vacant and were demolished more than a year ago – they are now sitting gutted, vacant, and unsecured – leaving tenants vulnerable to crime and vermin.”
Cooper Square Committee and Urban Justice Center have successfully used housing court lawsuits to win settlements for local tenants against other property owners. Tenant organizers helped form the Stop Croman Coalition, which is made up of residents from many buildings throughout the city.
We have been in touch with a spokesperson for Croman. We’ll update this story if a statement is provided to us.
UPDATE 12/16 Here’s a statement received today from a spokesperson for 9300 Realty, Croman’s company:
9300 has been very responsive to the Cooper Square Committee and the tenants at 159 Stanton St. The communication is well documented and our good faith efforts are very transparent. We have reached out to the tenants of 159 Stanton and the Cooper Square Committee on multiple occasions offering to immediately address any open issues at the building and in tenants’ apartments. Management has not been informed of any open repair items in tenant apartments, however we remain willing to immediately address any such issues as they are brought to our attention. Additionally, past repair issues have been addressed promptly. We have copied city officials on our past correspondence with these tenants (and the Cooper Square Committee) as our good faith efforts are well documented.