Hillside House at 87-40 165th Street in Jamaica, NY. | Photo: Dennis A. Clark
January 13th, 2019
By Nolan Hicks and Loren Mangelli
If Mayor de Blasio wants to make good on his vow to protect New Yorkers from slumlords, he can start at this Queens hellhole.
City inspectors have slapped 87-40 165th St. and its landlord, Eric Silverstein, with more than 1,000 violations worth nearly $4 million in fines since de Blasio took office in 2014, but have only moved to collect $138,600 from him, public records show.
“Once those violations are recorded, there is a disconnect on following up,” said Nelson Yeung, a lawyer representing tenants in a suit against Silverstein. “There’s no one to make sure these violations are fixed.”
With the city’s light touch giving Silverstein — No. 1 on the public advocate’s 2018 list of the city’s worst private landlords — little incentive to make repairs, tenants say they continue to languish among vermin infestations, leaky windows and rampant mold.
“I’m ashamed to have people over,” said Stella, a nurse and fifth-floor resident who requested that her last name be withheld.
Among the squalid living conditions Stella has to endure in the six-story, 118-unit Jamaica building are a nagging roach problem, leaks in the kitchen and a broken mailbox that forces her to pick up her mail at the post office.
“The city should hold people accountable,” said Stella — and de Blasio claims to agree.
“We’ll fine the landlords. We’ll penalize the landlords,” Hizzoner pledged in his State of the City address last week. “But if the fines and the penalties don’t cut it, we will seize their buildings.”
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development has had no trouble finding problems, hitting the building with 1,104 violations since 2014, records show. But only 797 of the violations have been remediated as of Thursday, as the department has dragged its feet on hauling Silverstein into court.
Even the $138,600 that has been levied isn’t technically part of the fines, but a fee for the building’s compulsory enrollment in the Alternative Enforcement Program, records show.
The department has insisted that it is “aggressively using every available tool to . . . secure needed relief for residents.”
City Hall agreed, saying, “This administration is committed to using every tool available — and creating new ones — to protect tenants across the city.”
But Hizzoner’s record shows anything but a crackdown.
A recent New York Times investigation found that the department went easy on Manhattan slumlords, settling two-thirds of the 126 cases it brought for just a fraction of the penalties it could have collected.
And a front-page Post story earlier this month revealed a similar pattern of neglect at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field Apartments.