And You Thought That Eminent Domain Was Mean

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The Village Voice has just released its list of the Ten Worst Landlords in New York City, and man oh man, are these guys jerks. The landlords profiled in this article evict tenants unfairly, cut off electricity without warning, and change the locks on 70 year-old diabetics while they are stuck in the hospital. One of the worst, however, just might be Mark Hersh, whose Colonial House Hotel, which is down to one tenant and is not actually a hotel, is located in our very own Morningside Heights. One of the main reasons that the building, on 112th between Broadway and Riverside, has a hard time attracting tenants? It is reported that Good Sir Hersh has a nasty little penchant for vigilante justice, harbors a deep affection for his baseball bat, and enjoys a good bash.

Read the full story on Hersh and see the list of all ten nightmare landlords on the Village Voice’s website. The details are enough to make you want to move to Manhattanville.

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  1. west side sro law project  

    i interned there for awhile. amazing organization.

  2. huh

    sounds like henry perkins

  3. I thought columbia

    gave the boot to all the nearby SROs in the 1960s. guess they missed one. anyone have a bulldozer and $100 million to name a new dorm?

    • brilliant

      because, you know, we need to give columbia an incentive to increase the class size at columbia yet again!

      as for buying up all the SRO's, that would be gentrification! a destruction of community! a violation of humanity! or maybe you just forgot that columbia and the neighborhood became mortal lifelong enemies in the 60's for good. partly because the university was tryign to buy up all the buildings, whose seedy reputation was partly to blame for Columbia's tumble in institutional quality when no one wanted to come to New York.

  4. Len

    There are undoubtedly a large number of bad landlords in New York City. One would think that the Voice could find them and write about them instead of playing patty cake with non profit groups, rabble rousers and local politicians. Every year it comes out with its 10 WORST LANDLORDS, not to do a service to the public but to sell newspapers. The Village Voice is of course, known for its propensity toward attention grabbing headlines and lurid photographs and this article is no different. All one has to do to take its measure is to look at who advertises and pays their bills. Maybe what is needed is an article about the 10 WORST NEWSPAPERS in terms of how many X rated ads offering illegal services they have. Back to the issue at hand, we could perhaps all agree that HUD is the country’s number one worst landlord; that’s a given. However, without speaking for the rest, they really missed the mark by naming Steven Kessner. You can chalk it up to a reporter losing her objectivity and allowing herself to be led around by the nose by a tenant group with a hidden agenda.

    Although the article pays lip service to Kessner’s claim that overcrowding apartments is the issue, it is glossed over and buried in the details, for instance, the photo in the article of mold on a tenants bathroom ceiling. What is not being said is that if 20 people live in an apartment with one bathroom, each showering once or twice a day, the ceiling never dries and mold grows. There is nothing that a landlord can do to prevent that except to try and reduce the occupancy load in the unit. Steven Kessner is trying to do that and has opened himself up as a target for the politically connected non profit groups that support the undocumented alien population in New York. Isn’t it strange that all of the articles written about Kessner cite the same couple of tenants? Although this article mentions that he has almost 60 buildings in East Harlem with over 1200 units, Kessner’s inclusion in the article is based on two tenants in two buildings. The Voice reporter makes sure to mention that Steven Kessner has over 3,000 HPD violations. Again, she fails to mention that these violations are spread over 60 buildings or that most of them have been abated but are not removed from record because the city inspectors can’t gain access to the apartments. Nor does she mention that a majority of the violations that are left are in overcrowded apartments. The article starts off by quoting Steven Kessner as saying “I fix it, they break it.” However, it fails to back up that quote with the evidence that was given to the reporter, instead, using alleged conditions in a couple of apartments to build a case for a two tier portfolio of trophy buildings and buildings dedicated to unfortunate immigrants. The conclusion of this article was written first and the rest was then filled in. Shame on the Village Voice. How about this for your next article....NIGHTMARE TENANTS that destroy apartments and then insist that the landlord has an obligation to repair them.

  5. Steven Kessner

    My name is Steven Kessner and I was named in the Village Voice article, “10 Worst Landlords.” My partners and I own almost sixty buildings in East Harlem but there was not enough time or space in the newspaper to do an in depth article on my buildings, so it focused on two buildings across the street from each other on East 117th Street; one which it claimed was gentrified and the other squalid; one for middle class people and the other for immigrants. Consequently, I was accused of having a two tiered portfolio, taking advantage of the immigrants in the poorer buildings. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is true that one building is nicer. It had been vacated by the City because of hazardous conditions and was purchased out of foreclosure. In 2000, I gut renovated the building into 40 new apartments, was able to charge market rents and all of the tenants had to work and have good credit. I needed them to be able to pay the rent so I could pay my mortgage. On the other side of the street, I own a building that was also purchased out of foreclosure, in 1994. This was not an empty building and no tenants were displaced. This building has had a new boiler, new roof, new electrical wiring, new sheet rock in the halls, all new windows and new gas piping. All of that was done from the buildings cash flow over the last several years. As tenants left, their apartments were renovated and about half of the 30 units have been done. In this building there about 10 apartments that are overcrowded with as much as 15-20 people living in each. This includes gang members and there are drug dealers in the building. Day after day, these people destroy the building. They kick open the front door and roof door, their bathrooms develop leaks and mold from all of the constant usage, the stoves and kitchen walls are grease covered, the hallway walls covered daily with graffiti and the courtyards filled with garbage. You might think that the landlord was bad but if you looked closely, you would find out the truth. Every day the porter cleans the halls and courtyards and every day the super paints over the graffiti. We are constantly replacing locks in the doors and periodically replace the doors themselves. When leaks develop, we patch up the bathrooms and replace fixtures but they always leak again. What is a landlord to do? We try to remove the illegal occupants and reduce the numbers of undesirable tenants but it’s a slow process and the deck is stacked against landlords in housing court. The occupants keep calling HPD, the newspapers and TV stations, trying to prevent their removal and we keep working through the system to get them out. When the last of these occupants leaves the building, it will become as nice as the building across the street. I have been in this neighborhood, turning distressed buildings into quality housing for almost twenty five years. Out of 5,000 tenants in 1300 units, there are a handful remaining that are slowly turning. If you want to call Steven Kessner a bad landlord, look at the whole picture. I invite any reporter that doesn’t have their own agenda to look at every one of my buildings and write the real story. For more information look up my website www.StevenKessner.org or my company website www.apartments-nyc.com.

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