State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced a settlement with ICON Realty Management, a property owner with numerous local holdings. The settlement requires the firm to pay $500,000 and to take steps to protect rent stabilized tenants.
ICON had been under investigation of the city/state Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force. Here’s more from the AG’s office:
Tenants in several ICON-owned rent-regulated buildings in the East Village, the Lower East Side, and Brooklyn were forced to live in adverse conditions, enduring excessive dust and debris from construction in the building common areas and apartments, inconsistent and irregular heat and hot water, and lack of cooking gas and elevator service for extended periods. The Task Force investigation found that, on multiple occasions, ICON failed to obtain Department of Buildings (DOB) work permits, performed construction outside the scope of permits issued, and failed to appropriately clean or maintain the construction work areas. The Task Force investigation also found that ICON ignored tenants’ requests for repairs, failed to timely correct housing and building code violations, and subjected tenants to long-lasting interruptions of heat, hot water, and cooking gas services.
The agreement requires ICON to clear all building code violations, implement “safe construction practices,” provide tenants with rent abatements during disruptions of essential services and to provide a tenant liaison. A monitor is also being appointed to make sure ICON lives up to the settlement. The company must pay $300,000 in penalties to New York State and $200,000 to NYC agencies.
A press release from the AG also included statements from the governor and mayor., among other local officials “Property owners in this City have a clear legal responsibility to their tenants and those duties were repeatedly violated by this company. We will continue to work hand in glove with our law enforcement partners to protect New York tenants and punish deadbeat landlords,” said Mayor de Blasio.
City Council member Rosie Mendez said, “Despite meetings and conference calls with my office and the tenants, ICON failed to make construction and repair work timely creating a hostile and unsafe environment for the tenants… Today’s settlement, among other things, will ensure that ICON establishes safe construction practices and will provide rent abatement to the tenants to compensate them during the time they lived without essential services.”
As we reported in the spring of 2016, the Cooper Square Committee helped organize tenants in ICON buildings. We attended a protest led by residents of 445 East Ninth St. and 57 Second Avenue, who told harrowing stories of dangerous conditions in their buildings. At the time, a spokesperson told us ICON said representatives of the company had been working with residents to reduce the number of complaints. We contacted ICON’s law firm for comment today. This story will be updated if they reply.
UPDATE 12:58 p.m. Here’s a statement from Kenneth Fisher, who’s an attorney representing ICON:
Icon never, ever intended to harass tenants and the Task Force made no finding of harassment because none occurred, no tenants were displaced and any claim to the contrary is just political hype. There were some construction issues in a handful of buildings which Icon addressed over a year ago, giving affected tenants rent abatements, and changing their procedures to prevent reoccurrence. In fact, the settlement continues those procedures in place and was concluded without the company ever receiving a subpoena or giving a deposition. The settlement imposes no penalty although Icon will be paying the kind of routine fines for building violations that every landlord faces. [The press release says they are paying $300,000 to the State but misleadingly omits that it’s to cover the cost of the investigation, is not a penalty, and is being split among the Task Force members]. Icon is proud of having grown its business from one building to over 100 over the last decade and a half without any controversy until there were some unfortunate problems in a few of its buildings which were addressed at the time. The company deeply regrets the inconvenience to the tenants in those buildings. Across its portfolio, Icon has less than an average of one violation per apartment, far below the City’s management standard. The Task Force’s press release is completely overblown and misleading and the company is reviewing its legal actions.