You’re on candid camera: Toledano tenants bring alleged harassment evidence to court

Residents say taped conversations support their allegations
October 19, 2015 09:12AM

Landlords have been known to collect documentary evidence against tenants during bitter disputes in Housing Court. Turns out, two (or more) can play at that game.

Rent-stabilized tenants of Raphael Toledano’s 444 East 13th Street in the East Village submitted audio and video recordings to Housing Court depicting the landlord’s agents as engaging in a campaign of harassment to force them out.

The evidence is part of a months-long dispute at the building between Toledano, Goldmark Property Management, and a group of tenants at the building, who pay between $800 and $1,400 a month for units. Those units could, according to previous media reports, could make as much as $4,000 a month if they were destabilized.

Andrew Scherer, policy director of New York Law School’s Impact Center for Public Interest, highlighted the difference that documentation makes. “If the landlord denies it, it becomes he said or she said,” he told the New York Times. “This evidence is much more conclusive.”

The developer bought the six-story, 10,000-square-foot building in January, paying $6.1 million. In August, state investigators issued subpoenas as part of a probe into allegations Toledano and his agents threatened tenants with police raids and eviction while shutting off essential services like gas and hot water.

Toledano, the Times reported, laid the blame at the feet of Goldmark, and said he’s been working to resolve issues with tenants. The number of open violations at the property has dropped from 247 to 81 in recent months, according to city records.

Goldmark is led by a Toledano business associate, Paulius Skema, who brokered several deals with the Brook Hill Properties head and was even named a minority owner on the purchase of 97 Second Avenue in 2014. Skema’s prior firm, Castellan Real Estate Partners, paid fines to New York state regulators following claims it demanded to see passports of Spanish-speaking tenants at its buildings and evicted those who didn’t provide documentation. [NYT]Ariel Stulberg