Claudia Irizarry Aponte, THE CITY
A former rep for a Manhattan real estate investment firm tops this year’s “worst landlords” list, to be released Thursday by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
The public advocate’s office annually ranks buildings’ managing agents based on their property holdings’ number of serious, unresolved housing code violations logged by city inspectors.
David Schorr managed 330 apartments across 17 buildings on behalf of Sugar Hill Capital Partners. In a monthly sampling between December 2020 and November 2021, those buildings together racked up an average of 1,442 open housing code violations, 418 of which were Type C violations – or deemed “immediately hazardous” by city inspectors.
One of the Sugar Hill properties, at 375 W. 126th Street, a 10-unit building in Harlem, currently has 43 open violations — nearly half of them Class C, the most serious category. They range from roach and mice infestations to violations related to lead paint and mold, city records show.
Second on the list is Abdul Khan, with 1,302 open violations across his dozen buildings in four boroughs, followed by entities affiliated with the nonprofit Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation, or NEBHDCo, whose registered managing agent Nathaniel Montgomergy had 1,192 open violations.
For the fourth year in a row, the public advocate has given dishonorable mention to the New York City Housing Authority, whose 176,000 apartments are not subject to housing code enforcement but remain under watch of a federal monitor due to dangerous and decaying conditions.
The watchlist buildings’ conditions boil down to “bad management, seriously poor management” Williams told THE CITY, noting that several Sugar Hill Capital Partners’ buildings receive tax exemptions given to landlords who undertake renovations.
“Worst of all…he’s getting money from the government and not using it to make repairs,” added Williams, who is running for governor. “It’s sad. It’s sad to watch.”
Reached at a phone number registered with his LinkedIn account, Schorr said the buildings were related to his “old employer” and declined to comment.
Sugar Hill Capital Partners’ holdings are concentrated in upper Manhattan and northern Brooklyn, city records show.
Several of the buildings formerly managed by Schorr are listed as receiving J-51 tax exemptions, including 373 W. 126th Street, where the pests ranked among the top violations, according to the landlord watchdog website JustFix.nyc. The site is powered by code violation data from the city Department of Housing and Development (HPD).
The 10-unit building has had tax-exempt status since 1991, according to JustFix.nyc.
On its website, Sugar Hill Capital Partners says its “integrated team of investment and operations professionals strives to maintain the highest standards of integrity and transparency.”
Sugar Hill Capital Partners did not respond to a request for comment.
Schorr left Sugar Hill Capital Partners in September to take over as vice president of operations with Fairstead, according to his LinkedIn. That company owns more than 16,500 apartments in 18 states and acquired 1,904 units across 48 buildings in The Bronx this week, according to the public advocate’s office.
Jason Korn, last year’s worst offender, with 1,822 average open violations, dropped entirely from the top 15 watchlist this year, Williams said, because he sold several of his buildings.
Williams called on the City Council to pass the Worst Landlords Accountability Act, a package of bills aimed at clamping down on what he calls the “disingenuous tactics” used by some of the city’s worst offenders to evade accountability, such as self-certifying repairs to HPD.
“The worst actor is trying to find a loophole,” he said. “If you’re one of the worst landlords in the city, you shouldn’t be able to self-certify — you’ve already shown you’re a bad actor.”
Williams also called on Mayor-elect Eric Adams to expand enforcement funding to HPD — and to allocate resources to improve the city’s beleaguered public housing.
He pointed to a growing number of backlogged work orders at NYCHA — a problem that had deadly consequences in the trash chute fire that killed 6-year-old Aiden Hayward in The Bronx’s Mitchel Houses last month.
As of November 2021, there were 600,480 open work orders in NYCHA buildings across the city — an increase of over 121,600 from the previous year, according to data compiled by the public advocate’s office.
The public advocate determined the Blasio administration will end with a significantly greater number of open orders than when it began in January of 2013, when NYCHA reported a citywide backlog of over 420,000 work orders.
“They’re so bad that we have to put them into one category,” Williams said. “There are more open work orders — over 150,000 more — than when the administration started. “So this has been an abject failure in my opinion, and we have an opportunity now with a new administration to do some things to kind of help with those failures.”
Barbara Brancaccio, a spokesperson for NYCHA, said work orders have increased “because we are aggressively documenting every single thing that’s wrong with our apartments.”
“This list is kicking New York City public housing yet again — when instead NYCHA needs to be funded and supported — and it conveniently takes the media attention away from private landlords, who need to be similarly held accountable,” she added.
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