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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Renting from the Worst

The city’s worst landlords got their own awards ceremony yesterday – and a Brooklyn condo developer took the dubious top prize. 

Adam Mermelstein, principal partner of 188 S. Third Street Investors and TreeTop Development, Brooklyn, was unofficially named the city’s worst landlord by a consortium of neighborhood groups (including Make the Road by Walking).

Residents of 188 S. Third Street said he has been trying to empty the 41-unit building and that only 18 apartments are now occupied.

Jacquelyn Hernandez, a tenant for 15 years, said, "I was verbally and physically harassed by a phony inspector with a fake ID who said I hadn’t paid the rent and gave me fake eviction papers."

Hernandez said her small, two-bedroom apartment is "without hot water and is badly in need of repairs."

Neither Mermelstein nor any of the other landlords was present. When reached by phone later, Mermelstein denied trying to force tenants out.

"That’s all false. Our practice is specifically not to do that. We have no interest in buyouts or harassment … Tenants can stay for as long as they like for whatever rent they’re paying. That’s not our game.

"The building is in very good shape. But any repairs or problems that do come up we do try to take care of them as long as tenants give us access," he said.

In all, 11 landlords were considered in a rowdy 11 a.m. ceremony sponsored by a neighborhood associations and community activists at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square. 

The main criteria were art and variety in harassing and intimidating rent-regulated tenants to get them to move out so the landlords could jack up rents, according to the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Fake eviction papers, turning off gas, heat and hot water, changing locks, threatening naive immigrants, filing frivolous lawsuits, illegally raising rents and failing to make repairs were among the tactics used by the landlords, according to the event organizers.

More than 250 people attended the ceremony – none of them laughing – and they voted by shouting and using noisemakers as the landlords’ names and properties were announced.

The "winners" were selected based on crowd noise.

Other landlords cited were: Jacob Finkelstein, owner of 1356 Walton Ave., the Bronx; John Tsevelos, president of G-way Management and owner of 851 Franklin Ave., Brooklyn; Jay Podolsky, owner of 330 W. 95th St., 315 W. 94th St., and 316 W. 95th St., Manhattan; Nathan Schuchat, who owns properties on the lower East Side, including 141 Ridge St.; George Subraj, who owns homes divided into apartments in Jamaica, Queens; David Melendez, who owns buildings in Bushwick, Brooklyn, including 198 Knickerbocker Ave.; Doug Peterson, who owns 974 Sheridan Ave., the Bronx; Benjamin Shaoul, who owns 332 Mott St. and 166 Elizabeth St. in Chinatown, and Julia and Carlos Guzman, who own 268 Dean St. in Brooklyn.

Another recipient was Joel Weiner, head of the Pinnacle Group, which issued thousands of eviction notices to tenants in their many buildings as disclosed by a Daily News investigation.

Except for Mermelstein, the landlords could not immediately be reached for comment.