Violation Calculation

9 Apr

From Cafepress.com

After going through all of the addresses mentioned on the “List of Known Urban American Owned Buildings” page in the Department of Housing and Preservation (HPD) Registration and Violation database, I calculated that Urban American currently has 4,066 open HPD violations.

Compare this to NYC’s current “Worst Landlord” according to the ranking given by the Office of the Public Advocate’s Worst Landlords Watchlist. This honor currently goes to Lisa Dreshaj, who has 2,097 violations amongst her 4 buildings. Urban American has almost double the number of the Dreshraj’s total violations — and this was calculated by only using addresses that I could find linked to Urban American through simple Google searches! They likely own far more buildings than those which I’ve tracked down, and therefore, may have far more violations in their name. Check out “Is Urban American NYC’s Worst Landlord? for details, which shows the details of how I calculated this statistic. There’s even a bonus Excel file of all of the addresses and their violations by class, in case you’d like to fact-check me.

Remember, if you’re a current or former Urban American tenant and your address isn’t on the list, email me at nyctenantadvocate@yahoo.com so I can add your building, and whatever violations it may have, to the tally.

More on Urban American in the News

7 Apr

3333 Broadway, courtesy of The Uptowner

I’ve made “Urban American in the News” a permanent page on this site so that it doesn’t inadvertently fall to the bottom of my posts. However, there are still even more articles and quotes to provide:

These articles are also sorted in descending chronological order:

“Landlord Sued for Increasing Rent, Forcing Tenants Out” from the Real Deal, October 16th, 2008 “The Legal Aid Society of New York plans to file a class action suit in the state Supreme Court today against Urban American Management Corp., owner of 3333 Broadway, for allegedly turning low-income units to market rate ones without proper public notice.”

“Community Action for Safe Apartments watching for corporate landlords” by Bill Egbert for the New York Daily News on July 15th, 2008. “Community Action for Safe Apartments is working with tenants in 19 of the estimated 277 buildings in the borough bought in recent years by private-equity-backed developers like Pinnacle, SG2, Ocelot, Normandy, Urban American Management and others.”

Tenants Target Fannie Mae by Daniel Massey for Crain’s New York, May 28th, 2009.

“‘With the rents they’re taking in, there’s no way Urban American can pay that almost $1 billion mortgage and continue to maintain the buildings,’ said Jackie Peters, secretary of the Metro North Riverview Tenant Coalition, one of the buildings in the portfolio.

Ms. Peters added that up until a few days ago, soot from a February fire in one of Urban American’s buildings had not been cleaned.”

“Seeking Fannie’s Help Before Conditions Worsen” by Karen Loew for City Limits Magazine, June 1st, 2009.

Select Quotes: “From a tenant’s point of view, one major problem with “predatory equity” is that if a real estate investor pays too much for a property – realizing post-purchase that the building’s rents will never be enough to pay back the mortgage debt assumed – the investor will start to cut costs by reducing maintenance of the property.”

“‘We stand with the tenants of the Urban American Management portfolio to urge Fannie Mae to live up to the spirit of the law to ensure that these buildings are kept in good condition,’ U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem said in a statement. ‘We cannot wait until these buildings fall off a cliff and must do everything we can now to protect our tenants.’

“Foreclosure Threat Looms over Thousands of City Apartments” by Eileen Markey for the Gotham Gazette, June 22nd, 2009. “Roberta Rivers is worried. The retired Verizon worker says the elevators break down repeatedly, her neighbors can’t get their windows replaced — even as mold grows on their walls — and there was no hot water for long stretches this winter. She wants the bank that holds the mortgage on her building [Fannie Mae] to force the landlord [Urban American Management] to take care of the property or find a new owner.”

Tenants, Landlord Square Off in West Harlem Affordable Housing Fight” by Andrew Keshner for The Uptowner on December 15th, 2009. “Since new management took over at 3333 Broadway more than two years ago, the building has become a battleground. Some residents and advocates charge that disrepair, rising rents and evictions are forcing lower income tenants to leave and they’ve gone to court to seek lease provisions ensuring low- and moderate-income housing. ”

Local Apartment Residents Boiling Mad Over Lack of Heat by Lindsey Ward for the Columbia Spectator on January 28th, 2010 “It’s been a cold winter for residents of 3333 Broadway.”

“Hannah Weinstein, a representative from the advocacy group Tenants and Neighbors said that this kind of inaction [on the part of Urban American regarding repairs] is purposeful neglect. ‘We believe the 3333 is a predatory equity building and that they know exactly what they’re doing, in that they don’t do repairs in order to force people out of the building so that they can bring in tenants who will pay more money at market rate,’ she said. ‘It’s probably been happening as long as the ownership has been there.'”

“East Harlem residents claim ‘predator investor’ is trying to drive up rent and expel them” by Juan Gonzalez for the New York Daily News on May 21st, 2010.

“‘Urban American is the poster child for predatory investing. This was one of the most insane deals of the real estate boom, and there’s no way they can pay their debt with the rent rolls from these buildings.’ says Dina Levy, head of organizing at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.

Who is running Urban American Management?

7 Apr

Urban American Management is an affiliate of a private equity organization called the Ramius Capital Group, which is, in turn, a division of the Cowen Group Inc., (NASDAQ: COWN). The Cowen Group is the holding company for Cowen and Company, LLC, a U.S. based investment bank.

Various sources have revealed the names Philip Eisenberg, Douglas Eisenberg, and Joshua Eisenberg (Josh Eisenberg) to be connected to Urban American. If you are an Urban American tenant, one of these names may be given as your landlord. Phillip is the CEO of Urban American, Douglas is the President, while Josh is a “partner” and “general counsel”. One can only hope that they’re not related to Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg.

Regarding Josh, he is currently listed as #9 (as of April 7th, 2011) on the Office of the Public Advocate’s list of Brooklyn’s worst landlords. In a borough with over 2.5 million residents, that’s a big deal.

Congratulations to Josh Eisenberg for being Brooklyn's 9th worst landlord!

The list details Josh as the owner of 65 units with 219 total infractions. As of April 4th, 2011, there are 40 class A infractions, 144 class B infractions, and 35 class C infractions.

From the Office of the Public Advocate: According to HPD, violations reflect information on three classes of housing code violations:

  • Class A: Non-hazardous violations, such as minor leaks or lack of signs designating floor numbers. An owner has 90 days to correct an A violation and two weeks to certify repair to remove the violation.
  • Class B: Hazardous violations, such as requiring public doors to be self-closing, adequate lighting in public areas, lack of posted Certificate of Occupancy, or removal of vermin. An owner has 30 days to correct a B violation and two weeks to certify the correction to remove the violation.
  • Class C: Immediately hazardous violations, such as inadequate fire exits, rodents, lead-based paint, lack of heat, hot water, electricity, or gas. An owner has 24 hours to correct a C violation and five days to certify the correction to remove the violation. If the owner fails to comply with emergency C violations such as lack of heat or hot water, HPD initiates corrective action through its Emergency Repair Program.

Now, if Urban American didn’t locate its offices in New Jersey, and if the Office of the Public Advocate had used different methodology and listed corporate landlords as well as those located outside of NYC, all of the violations combined from their 5,000+ buildings may have modified Urban American’s position on the list. I am aware of how 311 gathers its data, from having called in a number of heat and hot water violations, and they typically ask for the landlord’s name and address. In my case, Urban American had claimed that “Skyline Realty LLC” was the landlord, so 311 might also have various complaints accrediting building ownership to not only Urban American and the Eisenberg family, but also various realty groups. In short, there may be plenty of violations within 311’s system regarding the same corporation that are simply not linked due to these factors. However, these are merely my speculations.

If you were wondering how much they pay their employees, Glassdoor.com provides a listing. They can afford to pay “Portfolio managers” $104,000-$115,000 per year. Food for thought.

Reviews of Urban American: Unsettling stories.

6 Apr

Let’s start off by gathering some reviews from around the web. The following statements are the opinions of the authors listed, writing on the given review-based sites.

On Merchant Circle, there isn’t a single positive comment. Here are a couple of choice quotes:

  • Says “Sharon” on October 25th, 2010: “Why cant I ever get anyone to talk on the phone? Why am I referred to a voice mail and never get a call back?”: This is a common Urban American problem. Their phone tree is confusing to navigate, and it’s only possible to reach a human being on Monday through Friday, from 9 to 5. Therefore, if you have issues with your apartment and work a full-time job, you have to call the “emergency” line. In my accompanying lease paperwork, I was told that Urban American would charge me if you needed emergency repairs! This clearly disregards NYC tenant law, which states that landlords must repair violations free of cost.
  • Says an anonymous individual from Elmhurst on March 28th, 2011: We have been complaining about heating and hot water for days and still there is no reply. A guy came up to inspect the pealing paint of our bathtub in Jan 11, but till date none came to fix it.. They hung up on your face if you make any complaints. So what do you give this management but a Zero for rating.”
  • This review, written by Dorrett in Brooklyn, on December 27th, 2010, is personally deeply upsetting to read: “Urban American MGT Corp is the worst ever. I’ve been waiting over a month to get my toilet unclogged i have to use the bathroom at the neighbors, the neareset restarants. They have made false promises to repiar on several occasions and still one month and no
    toilet. It is 2010 and this is America, where in America do we have to defecate in plastic bags.
    There are no words.
  • On April 26th, 2010, Jewel in Hollis wrote: “The fact is, if my white boyfriend didn’t call the property manager’s boss to report problems, nothing would ever get done. My building in occupied mostly by blacks and Latinos, I myself am West Indian. Any time I complained I was essentially ignored. My bedroom ceiling has been leaking for 2 months. I have bedbugs. I use to have roaches before I paid for my own exterminator. I use to have mice before I got a cat. My shower was above 180 degrees for 2 months before it got fixed.”
  •  

More sites ahead:

NYC.com has three pages worth of negative reviews about Urban American Management, and again, not a single positive one as of April 7th, 2011.

  • Perez_Stephanie_N in Jackson Heights wrote, on July 15th, 2009: “I have lived in an Urban American building for the past 2 years. It is a constant problem to get in touch with the office for repairs, they do not return phone calls. Good luck getting someone to pay attention to you, even when you complain of RATS making noise between the walls! My elevator has smelled of garbage for as long as I can remember, and repairs and renovations are short of mediocre. I have tried but failed to be released from my contract, and would never recommend an Urban American building to anyone!”

Heading over to Yelp now:

  • Adil E. from the Bronx, on March 6th, 2011, writes: “Bad bad service, suck management, no hot water or heat few days a week, keep raising rent, if something needs repairs in your aprt it takes up to 3 weeks to get it fix.”

There is one site that offers positive reviews of Urban American — Kannekt, which I have not previously heard of. Their reviews of Urban American are bright and cheery. For the record, I tried adding a review detailing my personal situation with regards to my apartment’s maintenance issues, and the review was promptly deleted. Unlike other reviews sites, Kannekt will remove reviews if the company complains. It makes me wonder if Urban American has kept tabs on this site in order to maintain its image.

Are you a former or current Urban American tenant? Please write to me with your experience at urbanamericanmanagementinfo@yahoo.com with details. I pledge to keep your information anonymous.

Welcome

4 Apr

This blog will serve to compile information on Urban American Management, a New Jersey based New York City management company.

As your anonymous author, I want to compile all of my research on this company in one place so that prospective tenants of Urban American Management’s buildings can be informed. More information on my mission can be found on the “About” link.

You may contact me at nyctenantadvocate@yahoo.com if you have questions or comments.