Exclusive: Homeless families placed in buildings run by NYC's worst landlords

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Jim Hoffer has an exclusive 7 On Your Side Investigates report.

An Eyewitness News 7 On Your Side investigation focuses on housing for the homeless.

New York City is jamming a lot of the homeless into buildings run by the city's worst landlords, and the city is paying out big bucks to do it.

The list of New York City's worst landlords is public, on the web for anyone to see.

So when the city places homeless families in apartments, you'd think they would make sure not to put them in buildings owned by landlords on this list.

But our investigation has found the city is actually paying some of these landlords hundreds of thousands of dollars to house homeless in unsafe apartments.

"My name is Jim Hoffer from Channel 7. We wanted to speak to you about some of your buildings. They're rundown and in disrepair, can you tell me why?," we said to Isaac Schwartz when we caught up with him in Brooklyn Housing Court.

He's 13th on the Public Advocate's most recent List of Worst Landlords. Despite his high-ranking, the city has been placing homeless families in some of his broken-down buildings.

Jim Hoffer: "So you don't have heat sometimes?"
Eugene Hicks/Tenant: "No."

Eugene Hicks used to be homeless.

Jim Hoffer: "How long has it been broken?"
Eugene Hicks: "Since I've lived here."

Hicks was placed here as part of the city's Cluster Housing for the homeless. The building, owned by Isaac Schwartz, has 121 housing code violations, including several for broken or defective radiators.

Kisha: "Water on the side, it squirts out."
Jim Hoffer: "You mean steam?"
Kisha: "Hm, hmm."

The steam, she says, caused severe burns to her dog.

Kisha: "It happened three days ago."
Jim Hoffer: "Did they fix the radiator?"
Kisha: "No."
Jim Hoffer: "So it could happen again?"
Kisha: "Yes."

The city has also placed homeless families in another building owned by landlord Schwartz. A door to the roof has been broken for months. giving wide-open access to children. And for some tenants, buckets help them survive in a place where shoddy patchwork passes for renovations.

"You are considered one of the worst landlords in the city because of all of these apartment buildings in disrepair, What's going on? Are you one of the worst landlords, why don't you speak to me sir?", we asked Isaac Schwartz.

He's not the only one on the worst landlord list making tens of thousands of dollars to house the city's homeless. David David comes in at number 11. One of his buildings in the Bronx has 137 open housing code violations.

Jim Hoffer: "That's from the leak?"
Eliazer Brand/Tenant: "That's from the leak. Whenever they turn on the heat, it starts dripping water, down, down, down."

Once homeless, Raymond Vasquez is thankful to have a place but wishes he had reliable heat.

Jim Hoffer: "How long did you go without heat?"
Raymond Vasquez/Cluster Housing Tenant: "For a week, about two weeks."
Jim Hoffer: "How did you stay warm?"
Raymond Vasquez: "With quilts, sleeping in clothing and turn the stove on."

The death of two baby sisters caused by a radiator valve that exploded in a homeless family's cluster site apartment last December has put intense pressure on the mayor to either improve oversight or end their use. What defies common sense, though, is why the city pays up to $3,000 per apartment to place families in the buildings of some of the city's most notorious landlords.

"You are making thousands and thousands of dollars sheltering the city's homeless, yet they are in some of your apartment buildings in disrepair. Why don't you make some of these fixes, please talk to us," we asked Schwartz, who did not respond.

The Department of Homeless Services declined our request for an interview but in a statement to us said they take aggressive enforcement action against the worst landlords.

The Department says that they've eliminated 600 cluster units this year and are committed to ending the use of clusters to shelter homeless.

We should note nearly 3,000 cluster units remain.

For a complete list of the city's worst landlords, visit: http://advocate.nyc.gov/landlord-watchlist/worst-landlords
Related Topics:
7 on your side investigationhomelessrentersNew York City
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