Williams unveils 2020 Worst Landlord Watchlist

NYC Public Advocate,Jumaane D. Williams.
NYC Public Advocate,Jumaane D. Williams.
Kevin Fagan

Public Advocate, Jumaane D. Williams recently released the annual Worst Landlord Watchlist, which catalogues the 100 most egregiously negligent landlords in New York City as determined by widespread, repeated and unaddressed violations in buildings on the list.

“This year, the buildings owned by the worst landlords in the city were overwhelmingly in the Black and Brown neighborhoods hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Williams.

He said the 2019 worst individual landlord remains in the top spot for the second year in a row – Jason Korn.

Williams said Korn amassed an average of 1,822 violations across 10 buildings on the list in 2020.

In addition to the injustices occurring inside Korn’s buildings is the injustice of his attempts to force tenants out, Williams said.

“As the coronavirus continues to devastate the city and cases are rising, Korn is currently threatening to evict a group of Crown Heights tenants who have organized a rent strike; those tenants citing widespread neglect and deplorable conditions,” he said.

The public advocate said the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) also tops the 2020 Worst Landlord List for the third year in a row.

“In a moment when New Yorkers are largely confined to their homes, facing a deadly pandemic and an economic crisis, the worst landlords in New York City continue to take advantage of New Yorkers in need, neglecting emergency repairs and allowing dangerous conditions to go unchecked while continuing to cash rent checks,” he said. “Again, we see the COVID-19 pandemic revealing existing inequities, as the worst landlords operate in some of the worst-hit neighborhoods in our city and target lower income communities of more color.”

The Public Advocate said his Worst Landlord Watchlist is an information-sharing tool intended to allow tenants, public officials, advocates and other concerned individuals to identify which residential property owners consistently flout the City’s laws intended to protect the rights and safety of tenants. This is the second list from Public Advocate Williams’ office.

The top 5 worst individual landlords in New York City in 2020 are:

Jason Korn, with an average of 1,822 Housing Preservation Department (HPD) open violations; Lewis Barbanel, with an average of 1,383 HPD open violations; Robert Raphael, with an average of 1,229 HPD open violations; Abdul Khan, with an average of 1,195 HPD open violations; and David Blau, with an average of 952 HPD open violations.

An analysis of the buildings that comprise the Worst Landlord Watchlist finds that the zip codes with the highest-violation buildings in the city correspond with communities of more color also hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This only reinforces the reality that racial and income inequity are primary factors in both the spread of the coronavirus and the pervasiveness of poor housing conditions and the landlords perpetuating them,” Williams said.

At a virtual press conference Tuesday, Public Advocate Williams decried the actions of the landlords on the list alongside local elected officials and a coalition of tenants facing the deplorable conditions allowed by the worst landlords in the city.

Williams said individual landlords on the Worst Landlord Watchlist are ranked according to objective criteria using the average number of housing code violations open per month on their buildings by HPD, using data from December 2019 to November 2020.

Also listed are the 10 “worst” buildings for each borough, ranked according to the number of average open violations per month, regardless of ownership.

Only Class B and C violations are counted in the calculation of whether a building meets the selection criteria, Williams said.

“So many New Yorkers have to stay indoors during this pandemic, and unfortunately some of them are unlucky enough to be tenants of the worst landlords on this watch list,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Today’s announcement by the Public Advocate brings the worst of New York City’s landlords to light, and I am proud to work with Public Advocate Williams to find solutions to empower tenants and to take on bad landlords.”

“Queens residents have gone through so much during the current COVID-19 pandemic, so they should not have to also deal with unscrupulous landlords who fail to maintain their properties,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “It’s important we shine a bright light on landlords who don’t meet their basic obligations to their tenants. We also have to hold them accountable so that they won’t continue to profit from their neglect.”

“It is truly despicable and frustrating that there has not been any progress within the past year to improve building maintenance and resolve existing violations by Jason Korn, New York City’s Worst Landlord. Being highlighted on this list is not a contest but a disgraceful pattern of mismanagement, negligence, and a complete disregard for public health and safety. Every tenant-regardless of race, income, or zip code-deserves a clean and safe place to live. Our city must utilize every legal recourse to protect and advocate for these families who are rent-burdened and have been treated inhumanely,” said Council Member Farah N. Louis, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

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