Meet the landlords trying to dismantle the new rent regulations

One was sued last year for allegedly violating New York’s existing rent laws
By Eddie Small | July 17, 2019 07:00AM

From left: 687 St Johns Place, 31-16 35th Avenue in Queens, 28-30 34th Street in Astoria, and 34-31 81st Street in Flushing (Credit: Google Maps and iStock)

From left: 687 St Johns Place, 31-16 35th Avenue in Queens, 28-30 34th Street in Astoria, and 34-31 81st Street in Flushing (Credit: Google Maps and iStock)

One of the landlords suing New York City and a state agency over the state’s new rent law was sued last summer for allegedly violating the state’s rental laws.

A pair of tenants sued the Mycak family’s company Vermyck LLC in 2018, accusing the landlord of violating the J-51 program by not providing them a rent-stabilized lease when they moved into 28-30 34th Street in Astoria. Vermyck is now one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit arguing that the strict new rent law the state passed in June is unconstitutional.

“Vermyck’s challenge to the constitutionality of the new laws, when it repeatedly failed to abide by the last set of the governing regulations, is not only the height of hypocrisy but reinforces why strengthening the rent stabilization laws was necessary in the first instance,” said Lucas Ferrara, the attorney representing tenants Jacobus and Kathryn Gomes in the J-51 lawsuit.

“Everyone’s going to get sued”

The Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program are spearheading the legal action, backing the seven plaintiffs, which are management companies run by three different landlords: Vermyck, Mycak Associates and M&G Mycak, which the Mycak family controls; Cindy Realty, Danielle Realty and Forest Realty, which the Katz Realty Group controls; and individual landlord Constance Nugent-Miller.

None of the landlords named in the suit are particularly large. Nugent-Miller only owns one six-unit rental building at 682 St. Johns Place, and the three Mycak companies only own three buildings — at 340 East 5th Street in Manhattan and 31-16 35th Avenue and 28-30 34th Street in Queens, according to property records.

Katz Realty Group owns and manages more than 24 properties across the city, its website says. The lawsuit only refers to three, which are located at 34-31 81st Street in Jackson Heights, 55 92nd Street in Bay Ridge and 66-20 108th Street in Forest Hills, according to property records.

RSA president Joe Strasburg said all three landlords approached them to be included in the organization’s lawsuit.

“Everyone has a complaint. We evaluate,” he said. “But do they raise to a level of the taking, according to the attorneys?”

He was not bothered by the fact that the Mycaks are simultaneously the defendants in an ongoing lawsuit about violating existing rent regulations and the plaintiffs in a lawsuit trying to overturn new rent regulations.

“Everyone’s going to get sued and get a story. Everyone has violations,” he said. “No one walks in who’s a purist, however anyone wants to define it.”

Richard Walsh, Mycak’s attorney in the J-51 lawsuit, echoed this point.

“I don’t agree that it’s hypocritical,” he said. “I think it’s self-preservation.”

Representatives for Katz did not respond to a request for comment, and Nugent-Miller could not be reached.

“Strangers” with succession rights are living in our building

The lawsuit from RSA and CHIP lays out the numerous ways the new rent law has harmed the three landlords. It claims that Nugent-Miller “has been forced to offer renewal leases to stabilized tenants at rental rates far below the market and has twice been denied the opportunity to occupy a first floor unit in her own building in favor of a stabilized tenant.” The Mycak family has also had to rent their apartments below market rates and does not plan to repair or re-rent them once they become vacant, as doing so does not make economic sense under the new law, the suit says.

The Katz family has allegedly dealt with similar problems at its buildings and also been forced to rent units to strangers who claim they have succession rights. A husband and wife had lived in a unit at 34-31 81st Street since 1994, for instance, but they have since moved to Florida and now claim the person living in the 81st Street apartment is their son, according to the lawsuit.

“It is too difficult and costly for Cindy Realty to prove the residence of the couple, and the son is likely to claim succession rights,” the suit says. “Cindy Realty is thus saddled with a tenant it never approved.”

RSA and CHIP filed their lawsuit late Monday night in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, claiming that the state’s new rent law violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo just signed the new law on June 14, preparations for a lawsuit had been underway for more than a year, and the court case itself could prove to be a long, drawn-out process as well.

Mary Diduch contributed research, and Georgia Kromrei contributed reporting.