Tenant advocates claim the Orbach Group is attempting to harass and drive out lower and middle-income residents in Manhattan Valley, near Columbia University, in an effort to replace them with Columbia students and higher-income tenants.
Orbach installed metal gates on the stoops of nearly 20 of its buildings in the neighborhood and sent letters to tenants accusing them of loitering on stoops.
The landlord, which markets the apartments to Columbia students by offering a free campus-area shuttle bus, has reportedly challenged tenants on residency requirements in Housing Court and allegedly installed covert surveillance cameras in the properties to monitor such requirements, according to the New York Times.
Other tactics allegedly include offers to buy out leases to tenants facing legal action, as well as the use of a private investigator to obtain information for use in Housing Court.
Orbach’s actions have drawn scrutiny from state attorney general Eric Schneiderman, with some tenants receiving letters from Schneiderman’s office in January notifying that them of an investigation into “complaints of tenant harassment.”
Orbach recently acquired a 48-unit rental building on West 108th Street for $27.5 million. The company purchased a 33-building residential apartment portfolio for $246 million in 2013. [NYT] – Rey Mashayekhi