Icon Realty Principal Faces Potential Criminal Charges for ‘False Filings’ at DOB

Posted on: June 14th, 2016 at 8:33 am by
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56 W. 11th Street, Photo: NYCityLensIcon Realty is often considered one of the more reviled landlords citywide. It’s another example following the trend of multimillion-dollar acquisitions followed by tenant harassment. And now, finally, some discipline.

The Department of Buildings recently charged Icon co-owner Terrence Lowenberg for false filings on a construction permit for 56 West 11th Street. Hearing on the matter is set for later this morning.

Lowenberg is called out for falsely claiming that the building was free of not just rent-regulated tenants, but of occupants altogether. This is a common tactic in tenant harassment. 

This image has been archived or removed.
This image has been archived or removed.

A tipster shared the DOB summons letter – “Notice of Criminal Court Hearing” – which notes the following (partial) explanation of the charges:

…the inspection of former DOB inspector Michael Geraci on 7/15/15, defendant owner/principal filed a false statement in Section 26 of PW-1 permit application in Job Application #122457117 stating building is not occupied and doesn’t contain rent stabilized/controlled occupancies in violation of BC 28-211.1. Former Inspector Geraci reviewed rent rolls from DHCR showing the building contained rent stabilized/controlled occupancies at the time of inspection, he further observed individuals occupying units.

…Defendant continues to file false PW-1 on job applications to the DOB.

Icon Realty purchased 56 West 11th Street three years ago for $18.5 million, according to public record. The harassment allegedly began shortly thereafter. Jeffrey Houlihan, co-treasurer of 56 West 11th Street Tenants’ Association, tells us…

Since Icon purchased our building in 2013 tenants have suffered one indignity after another – from the loss of the sole elevator in the building for over a year, which was made inoperable due to the gross carelessness of Icon’s workers, to the loss of all gas to the building (for cooking stoves and basement laundry dryers) for almost two years now to the nearly continual demolition and construction noise and disruption and lead dust proliferation that we’ve had to endure (in a building in which a number of children and infants and elderly reside) – tremendous pressure has been put on tenants in hopes that we will leave. 

So far, they have succeeded in dislodging several tenants by use of this strategy, unfortunately – which means we will have yet more demolition and construction to endure in the future as they begin to work on those newly vacant units. Also, the removal of our live-in super (as Icon is doing in all its buildings) so that building systems, machinery, boilers etc are left to run without anyone overseeing them and no one is in the building to immediately respond to emergencies, exposing tenants and the surrounding community to increased risk, all in the name of being able to maximize profit by renting out the super’s apartment.

We are not surprised that the owners would be willing to file false information with DOB in order to expedite this process and to avoid having to follow more stringent safeguards.

Yonatan Tadele, Housing Organizer at Cooper Square Committee, also weighed in:

If your landlord left you with no gas for two years [and counting], an inoperable elevator for a year, and continued to unsafely demolish & renovate much of the building, how would you feel? Who would you hold responsible? No one should have to live through these conditions; yet, a number of tenants all around NYC experience issues like these – particularly those around construction – on a daily basis. In my opinion, it’s a form of harassment; the only way to eliminate it is to create strong laws that will protect people like Jeffrey & his neighbors from going through this.

PR from Icon, Chris Coffey, responded. 

We have had issues with one of our contractors and architects after a change in industry standards related to PW1 filings and have taken steps internally and externally to address them. We have every confidence that working with the City, we will resolve these issues so they do not happen again.

And now, we’ve seen listings showing that Icon is trying to flip the property for $42.5 million. The building has 16 market-rate units, 19 rent-stabilized units and one rent-controlled unit. 

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