Upper West Side-based investment firm Castellan Real Estate Partners is expected to reach a settlement with the state over a probe into whether the firm demanded to see Spanish-speaking tenants’ passports, proof of citizenship and pay stubs as a condition of their tenancy. The firm later evicted tenants who would not comply with their demands, which are prohibited by state law.
After a seven-month investigation, Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to announce the settlement today. The state found that the firm threatened to evict tenants – largely immigrants from Ecuador and Mexico – if they did not comply. Castellan will agree to compensate the tenants it forced to move out.
Castellan, run by Paul and John Sahib, owns 49 rent-stabilized buildings in Washington Heights, Harlem, Brooklyn and South Bronx. If the settlement proceeds as expected, the firm will not admit that it did anything wrong, but will hire an independent monitor for three years and change its practices. It will also form a $100,000 0 fund to pay back the tenants who were “wrongfully removed from their homes,” according to a spokesperson for the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
It’s likely Castellan’s managers saw the changing demographics of Upper Manhattan, and hoped to fill the spaces vacated by evicted Spanish-speaking tenants with those who would pay higher rents, the News said.
“This settlement serves as a reminder to landlords that there will be real consequences if they try to intimidate their tenants based on their background, citizenship or legal status,” Cuomo said in a statement cited by the New York Daily News. [NYDN] — Mark Maurer