The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

More Madness From 60 Clarkson

A pair of scissors, a stabbing, drawn guns, a death. Details here.
pic by mahsa saeidi

Most blocks in the 'hood have 'em. That one building that you wish you could wish away. Ours is 60. 60 Clarkson. The world's worst slumlord, making money off of homeless people's misery, and treating the few actual lease-holders like dirt. Any wonder the cops are there every other day? You can read my post about the building here, and read more and listen to the building's wretched story on WNYC here.

Tonight, a story is emerging that a dude stabbed a woman, then the cops came, then they found him, then they shot him dead. I'm not the Blogger of Record, so don't expect that story to hold up in court. But that would appear to be the gist of it. Once again I had the pleasure of being escorted to my house by an officer from the 70th. Oh, and something about a fire in a kitchen. Related? Who knows. I leave it to the better equipped and the less tired.

Is the Q outraged? I've been on a low simmer about that building for years. Many of us on the block have tried to get involved, but the easiest way to shut this guy down is to...shut him down. Stop giving him thousands a month per apartment to run it as a homeless shelter. Just stop. NYC DHS, are you effing paying ANY attention here? I'm sending the link to this post, like all the others, directly to you.


ben_of_oz said...

Saw the commotion while walking my dog, and I knew you'd be on it.

It's frustrating that an attempt to make the situation better for homeless people has gone so horribly awry. But I think you're right, and the solution is clear: shut it down.

Sarah said...

I was talking to the reporters, they weren't interested. Just "do you live in 60"? No, but I have opinions, can tell you a bit. No interest in the bigger picture. BTW, John Miller formerly of ABCNews/Homeland Security, now a Deputy Commissioner showed up - pretty big shot for a domestic dispute.

Anonymous said...

SMDH... Madness indeed Q... Sadly Sarah, reporters are rarely interested in the big picture. The structural violence of poverty, homelessness, exploitation, upward transfer of wealth, cronyism and corruption built in to our oligarchic system posing as democracy are generally not something discussed on your nightly local news. if it bleeds it leads. My thing is, the state takes children and pets away if they're abused neglected or exploited, why can't it apply that same logic to property owners? if property and the people who live on it are abused exploited or neglected, take it away from the owner. Simple. Especially since the problem of slumlords affects larger groups of people at the same time.i suspect it has something to do the nature of capitalism. Owners live by different rules than workers and are punished for wrongdoing far less frequently and severely. The system is rigged to benefit those with the most at the expense of those with the least. SMDH...

no_slappz said...

Clarkson, clearly vault boy's response to your earlier post about 60 Clarkson is on the mark:

While Mr. Hers is undeniably a scumbag, I blame the city much, much more. Not only are they throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at Mr. Hers with no oversight, but they are knowingly moving drug dealers, sexual predators, and criminals into this building where people are trying to raise their families.

theoldspeakjournal wonders:

My thing is, the state takes children and pets away if they're abused neglected or exploited, why can't it apply that same logic to property owners? if property and the people who live on it are abused exploited or neglected, take it away from the owner.

The state holds the cards. Or should I say, the state holds the money.

If the state were to cut off the extraordinarily generous cash supply, the landlord would have to compete for tenants, like every other landlord that isn't operating as a de facto agency of the government.

The 60 Clarkson St arrangement is the worst form of government monopoly. The government sets the price for housing the worst inhabitants that can be found, and pays a rate well above the market rate for neighborhood apartments.

The rate is so high, and the demands made upon the slumlord are so low, that no legitimate, non-slumlord real estate investor/developer can offer the owner/slumlord enough money to induce a sale.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I wrote to DHS and CAMBA, the two big players in this drama. As much as I appreciate CAMBA's commitment to affordable housing, they've completely dropped the ball on this one. If anybody could put pressure on DHS, it would be the organization providing services to more than 50 families in that building.

Follow the money, indeed. The last comptroller, John Liu, wrote a scathing report of DHS's lack of oversight of the many buildings it hires as homeless shelters, many of which are more expensive AND worse environments than the City's own miserable shelters.

We're creating homeless in record numbers, but we have no real plan to deal with the problem. The typical advice? Move out of NYC and be some other town's problem. I'd like to implore folks who think all of these people are trouble to think again...many are sweet, scared and vulnerable. Particularly the single women with children who have abusive men in their lives. The building is a tragedy of epic proportions.

no_slappz said...

In buildings that are occupied by people whose rent is paid by the city, it's possible for the police to make arrangements to perform "vertical patrols" -- inside the building. Every floor.

Buildings, such as half-way houses and others, run by various non-governmental organizations, often agree to the patrols.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't feel like a failing of the building to me. Why do we issue tasers to cops if not to use them on strung out dudes wielding scissors?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Tasers, yes. But I feel unqualified to judge what happened since I wasn't there. If I had a gun, and someone came at me with an unknown weapon, I might be tempted to fire. It must be a very stressful moment, and if these cops have consciences, I'll be they feel some remorse right now.

diak said...

While I completely sympathize with the "shut him down" sentiment, the slumlord is a symptom of a broken system, but not the cause. As a society we've decided we don't want people living on the street, the shelter system is an overburdened horror and thus we sadly have to turn to the private sector. Where, inevitably, we encounter "entrepreneurs" like Herr Hers who can game the system for riches. But take the big bucks out of the equation, the slumlords pull out and where does that leave the tenants? And frankly, deserved or not, these are "undesirable" tenants that property owners won't accept unless the reward justifies their decision.

But what do we do about the lack of services, repairs, security etc?
I suggest that property owners should be LICENSED before they can rent to other people. Just as a boat captain or an airline pilot has to be licensed before they can assume responsibility for the health and safety of their passengers. And like captains and pilots there should be different classifications for small landlords (small-craft charter captains) and large mega-building operators (ocean liners). The advantage of this idea is that landlords would have to avoid having their license revoked for fostering dangerous or unhealthy conditions. And if you make the license cover ALL the owner's properties, he is then compelled to service low-end buildings for fear of losing profitable high-end rents elsewhere.

Is this simply pie in the sky? And maybe there are some lawyers reading who can point out why this might not be feasible statute-wise.
I know such a system would be open to all kinds of abuse as well (dummy license holders, shell companies, etc.) but perhaps it's a starting point. Clearly the city has been unwilling to go after the likes of Hers with criminal charges. Maybe it'd be willing to pursue a less-onerous license revocation procedure.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I think it's a very simple issue of enforcement. If we can find the money to give letter grades to every single restaurant in the City, surely we can send inspectors to every single large apartment building, grade the places, then threaten to take over anyone scoring F over x amount of time. There must not be the political will. As I like to say, the government can do whatever it wants. Until people make a ruckus, the status quo wins the day.

And by the way, the system may be broken. But in my few communications and countless stories about Barry Hers, he is a pathological liar. He will tell you what you want to hear, and he's made millions off that pathology.

no_slappz said...

Clarkson says:

If we can find the money to give letter grades to every single restaurant in the City, surely we can send inspectors to every single large apartment building, grade the places, then threaten to take over anyone scoring F over x amount of time.

Then what? You're suggesting the city should seize poorly managed building because you believe the city would improve them? We've been down that road.

Moreover, seizing lawfully owned property on which all property tax payments are up to date violates the Constitution.

On the other hand, the city has the power to stop handing over exorbitant sums to slumlords. That option alone would clean up 60 Clarkson.

However, the city is unlikely to halt the flow of cash so there's little chance for improvement.

Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, the police can conduct vertical patrols inside the building and they can, according to news released today, still pretty easily stop & frisk people who seem a little skeevy.

There must not be the political will. As I like to say, the government can do whatever it wants.

Whatever it wants? Not when it comes to violating the Constitution in an egregious way when people are ready, willing and able to fight back.

Hers may be comparable to Donald Sterling, possibly in more ways than one. For Sterling, it's looking like he's going to commence a fight which may set Adam Silver and the NBA back on their heels.

His situation is on soft legal ground, but Hers seems to be sailing along.

babs said...

Ever hear of eminent domain? Surely that building is blighted. Government can indeed seize private property (while paying the owner for it, of course) and tear it down or rehabilitate it. It's one of the only ways to evict non-delinquent rent-stabilized tenants, which is why our pal Bruce Ratner had the state seize buildings he owned so they could be torn down for Atlantc Yards.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

within the constitution, duh. though even that gets stretched to accommodate the times (thank god).

And to the idea of seizing property...damn right. If you don't obey the law and run your property as a brothel, we'll take it from you. If you use your car like a weapon, we'll take it from you. This city is full of slumlords who get that way by a lack of tough enforcement.

Our constitution is designed so that jerks can't infringe on another's well being. You can't tell me that a case can't be made that slumlords don't present a hazardous and emotionally violent condition. So there, constitution.

If it were a private building owner making his OWN life miserable, sure. But landlords of large apartment buildings are a different class, and we can regulate the heck out of 'em if we want.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

In the case of 60 Clarkson, to a person, I've heard people say why doesn't the law take that building away from him? I think it just makes common sense, frankly.

no_slappz said...

The Constitution is a document that sets the LIMITS of government. It tells you what the government is not permitted to do.

Regarding Eminent Domain, perhaps there's a way to twist that power in a way that permits the city to seize private property. But I doubt it. The city would have a hard time extricating itself as the cause of the problem.

However, considering the sky-high rents paid by the city on behalf of tenants in Hers' building, the city has created a valuation for the property that reflects the rents. Obviously an equally sky-high price.

Bruce Ratner paid well above the market rate for all the homes he acquired through Eminent Domain. The final holdout -- Daniel Goldstein -- was paid $3 million for a co-op he bought a few years earlier for only $650,000.

Considering that he sold it to Ratner when local real estate was on the down-swing, his deal is even better than the numbers suggest.

Anyway, the city government is the only possible buyer for the property. Moreover, Hers isn't committing any crimes. If he were, then the city government would have to admit that it was aiding and abetting the criminality.

babs said...

However, Bruce Ratner did not pay anything like above market to the rent-stabilized tenants of his own buildings who were forced out when their buildings were seized by the Eminent Domain abuse he engineered. They got their broker's fee paid and one-two years of rent (I know several people who were affected), but most had no way to continue to afford those apartments after that.

diak said...

<< I think it's a very simple issue of enforcement. >>

Well, yes. But you could say the same thing about everything from running red lights to chemical plant safety to insurance fraud to the flow of drugs from Mexico. But as long as the odds of getting caught and prosecuted are so remote, the activity will continue.

And as far as seizure of buildings, as I understand it, the gov't can only seize assets that have been shown to be acquired through criminal activity. They could seize a drug dealer's TV for instance. But since the city refuses to pursue slumlords on criminal charges, it has no basis for seizure. (Although presumably a property owner convicted of say, money laundering or smuggling, could have their building taken...)

So what is an alternative? I'm suggesting that to license landlords sets up an incentive for landlords to do the right thing whether they want to or not. You cite the example of restaurants; but when the Health Dept closes down your restaurant you don't lose the restaurant; you lose your permit to serve meals and receive money for them. If you could lose your license to collect rent (or rent subsidies) — on ALL your properties — you would no choice but to bring your business up to legal standards or get out of the business.

no_slappz said...

babs, the renters in the buildings acquired by Ratner were given what appears to have been fair treatment. They were relocated.

Meanwhile, it's not likely you know anything about their personal finances. People say whatever they need to say to keep their rent stabilized apartments. Why not? There's no penalty for lying.

Those who were displaced by Atlantic Yards may have had more resources than you know of, and they may have become eligible for programs that would keep them in good stead.

Frankly, I haven't read any local news articles claiming they've fallen on hard times as a result of moving on.

Meanwhile, Goldstein bought a place in Park Slope for $800,000 and started renovation work. He immediately got into a legal fight with his next-door neighbor who was inconvenienced by the construction underway.

babs said...

I am a real estate broker. I know a lot about the personal finances of many of these individuals as they came to me looking for homes and were required to submit income tax returns, letters of employment, etc., in order to apply. Most didn't qualify for the apartments I had, which were also rent-stabilized, because by law you can't pay a year or two upfront for a rent stabilized apartment in order to get around minimum credit and income requirements. And believe me, most of the people involved here had nothing worth lying about to protect, like the vast majority of people with rent stabilized apartments.

I often wonder what became of many of these people, as I do about the women and children in the homeless shelter there that the Rat also had seized by Eminent Domain.

no_slappz said...

babs, from previous comments, I'm aware of your role as a real estate broker, so you undoubtedly know the NY City real estate market operates on several levels.

With respect to those displaced by the Barclays Arena, to my knowledge there have been no published stories about them facing worsening problems. Given the nature of the press, it would surprise me if the anti-Ratner reporters in the city would let a story about how he pushed tenants into the street get away.

There's been coverage of Goldstein, who accepted a life-changing offer from Ratner. The others? I haven't heard. Meanwhile, there's a huge stratum of renters in the city who rent basement apartments, attic apartments and garage apartments without going through the intense qualifying process that you mentioned.

The owners of those properties would like nothing better than a year or two of rent paid up-front.

Anyway, if you know of published stories about the displaced tenants, I'd like to know where they appeared so I can read them.