Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

“Daily News: Prominent NYC Landlord to Pay $500G for Trying to Drive out Rent-Regulated Tenants with Unruly Construction”

September 28, 2017

As published by The New York Daily News, on September 27, 2017.

A big landlord in gentrifying neighborhoods will pay $500,000 to settle accusations of harassing rent-regulated tenants with disruptive construction.

Icon Realty Management on Wednesday settled with a city/state task force created by Gov. Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman and Mayor de Blasio.

Rent-restricted tenants complained to the task force Icon was trying to drive them out of Lower East Side, East Village and Brooklyn buildings by tearing up common areas and ignoring repair requests.

The task force, which also includes the state Division of Homes & Community Renewal, found unsafe conditions that included collapsed ceilings, water leaks and thick layers of construction dust in common areas.

In some cases Icon falsely claimed buildings with tenants that were undergoing construction had no tenants. The task force said some contractors they hired did sub-standard work, including work on a gas line.

Tenants endured long periods without heat, hot water and cooking gas, and at times Icon issued rent demands to tenants who had already paid up.

“Too often, bad landlords see rent-regulated apartments as a goldmine — looking to make a quick buck by using construction to harass tenants out of their homes,” AG Schneiderman said.

Mayor de Blasio added, “Property owners in this city have a clear legal responsibility to their tenants and those duties were repeatedly violated by this company.”

In signing the agreement, Icon neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to address all outstanding code violations, complete all repairs and pay $300,000 to the state. They also will pay another $200,000 to the city in penalties, fees and costs.

Kenneth Fisher, a lawyer for Icon, called the task force announcement “overblown” and said the Task Force “made no findings of harassment because none occurred. No tenants were displaced and any claim to the contrary is just political hype.”

As part of the agreement, Icon will hire an independent monitor to ensure compliance with the terms of the settlement, and give rent abatements to tenants during disruptions caused by construction.

The settlement is the first of its kind with the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force, set up by the city and state in 2015 after a spike in complaints about landlords trying to replace rent-regulated tenants with those who will pay higher market rates.