Landlords sue to get off tenant harassment list

GPG, Delshah, Shaoul, Stellar complain of “giant cloud” over their buildings

Clockwise from top left: Larry Gluck, Joseph Goldsmith, Ben Shaoul and Michael Shah (Getty, Gluck Family Foundation, Kucker Marino; Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Clockwise from top left: Larry Gluck, Joseph Goldsmith, Ben Shaoul and Michael Shah (Getty, Gluck Family Foundation, Kucker Marino; Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

A group of landlords want out of a city program that forces them to prove their tenants were not harassed or to set aside apartments for low-income residents.

Entities tied to GPG Management, Delshah Capital, Benjamin Shaoul and Stellar Management filed eight lawsuits against the city this week seeking removal from the Certificate of No Harassment Pilot Program Building List.

They take issue with how city officials decided to include their properties, a process they allege is “mired in secrecy” and wrongfully prevents them from receiving building permits for demolition or major alterations.

The city places buildings on the list if a court or agency has determined tenants were harassed, as well as in certain cases where a court or government agency has determined the property is severely distressed.

But the Department of Housing Preservation and Development also uses the Building Qualification Index, a metric of the agency’s own making, to place properties on the list. The index rates open and past hazardous violations within a five-year period, from zero to 10, and uses other factors to determine a building’s score.

If the building traded hands during that time, the new owner could be on the hook for the previous one’s violations.

To get a building permit, properties on the list must first obtain a certificate of no harassment. Buildings denied the certificate can either wait for a hearing on the matter or set aside 25 percent of their apartments for low-income residents.

Joseph Goldsmith, an attorney with Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens who represents the landlords on the eight lawsuits, said his clients were not provided with adequate information about why their buildings made the list. Index scores are not public.

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“It is like you are guilty first, and then you have to prove yourself innocent,” he said, adding that properties put on the list immediately drop in value.

“There’s a giant cloud placed over these buildings,” he said.

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(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
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The city launched the program as a pilot in 2018, requiring residential property owners in certain neighborhoods to obtain certificates of no harassment before moving forward with major construction.

Last year, the City Council expanded the program to all five boroughs and extended it through Sept. 27, 2026. Real estate groups criticized the move, saying the city’s criteria were vague. They also noted that the state’s 2019 rent law rendered the program moot, because it removed landlords’ financial incentive to drive tenants out.

“Protecting tenants from harassment is key to our mission,” an HPD spokesperson said in a statement. “[The no-harassment program] is one of our many tools for holding landlords accountable.”

The properties in the lawsuits include Delshah’s 165 Howard Avenue, 623 Halsey Street, 167 Waverly Avenue, 371 Irving Avenue, and 166 Bleecker Street in Brooklyn; GPG’s 592 Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan; Shaoul’s 738 East 6th Street in Manhattan; and Stellar’s 326 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.

More than 1,000 properties are on the list, nearly all because of their Building Qualification Index scores.