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Real Estate

Public Advocate releases worst landlord list, revamps online database

Public Advocate Letitia James speaks during a press

Public Advocate Letitia James speaks during a press conference outside of City Hall to announce the launch of 2014 Worst Landlords Watchlist in Manhattan on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Photo Credit: Agaton Strom

Public Advocate Letitia James Wednesday released the annual list of the city landlords with the most violations and revealed a revamped website that gives New Yorkers detailed reports on the offenders.

About 5,000 landlords who own apartments in roughly 6,800 buildings throughout the five boroughs made the list this year for a variety of negligent infractions such as not providing heat, leaking pipes, peeling paint, broken doors, mold and bedbugs.

James said the updated database, at, will empower tenants who suffer under these conditions and push the city to enforce tougher housing laws.

“Most of these tenants ... just don’t have means to fight these landlords or seek the legal recourse or redress. And so today we are exposing the worst landlords,” James said at a news conference outside City Hall with several housing advocate groups.

James’ office complies the list, which is updated daily, by using information from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and from calls to her office, and uploads it to the website. 

The site, which was launched by Bill de Blasio in 2010 when he was public advocate, contains an interactive map and searchable database for users to get more details on the building owners and their violations.

The website has been revamped to include pictures of the buildings, a progress report on the violations and geotagging that allows smartphone users to find the closest buildings with major violations. 

The public advocate publicly chastised Robin Shimoff, who led the list with 3,352 violations in 13 Bronx buildings. 

“Ms. Shimoff, congratulations. You have the distinction of being the worst landlord in the city. I urge to you to clean up your act immediately,” James said.
Calls to Shimoff and the four ranking landlords, Rawle Issacs, Joseph Podolski, Bashkim Celaj and Yechiel Weinberger, were either unreturned or unanswered.

James said many of the members of the list are repeat offenders and had buildings in the poorest neighborhoods, such as East New York, the South Bronx and Central Harlem. 

Thomas Williams, a member of the Flatbush Tenants Association who has lived in a rent-stabilized unit for a decade, said his members have complained about inadequate responses from their building owners to complaints  over problems in their homes.

“We have a lot of landlords who don’t want to do repairs. They just want to do patchwork,” he said.

A landlord will make the list if they have an average of at least three open, serious violations per unit if their building has fewer than 35 units, or an average of two open violations if their building has more than 35 apartments. 

The updated website and database isn’t the only measure that the public advocate is taking to crack down on violations. She called on HPD and the city to provide more home inspectors and discipline landlords who don’t obey court orders to repair damage to their units.

Ben Julchin, the executive director of the Association for Neighborhood Housing Development, a coalition of city tenant advocate groups, said the landlords often have strong legal backing, keeping tenants from pursuing cases against them.

“If you're in an affordable apartment and your landlord is harassing you, you have no choice,” he said.

HPD spokesman Eric Bederman said it will work with James and will increase its code enforcement staff thanks to a $1 million increase from the mayor’s budget.
The mayor said the database has made a major difference over the years and that he will  assist the public advocate in better enforcing housing laws. 

“We look forward to partnering with the public advocate to ensure every tenant has the safe, decent housing they deserve,” he said in a statement.

Top offenders

These are the five top offenders on the worst landlord list as of Wednesday evening. amNewYork reached out to each of them but none returned messages or answered our calls.


1. Robin Shimoff

Buildings: 13

Violations: 3,352

2. Rawle Isaacs  

Buildings: 14

Violations: 3,040

3. Joseph Podolski

Buildings: 5    

Violations: 1,440

4. Bashkim Celaj 

Buildings: 10  

Violations: 1,379

5. Yechiel Weinberger 

Buildings: 6 

Violations: 1,133

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