NEW YORK CITY—New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Wednesday a settlement between the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force (a city and state multi-agency group) and Icon Realty Management, led by Terrence Lowenberg and Todd Cohen. The agreement requires the landlord to end alleged harassment and hazardous living conditions for tenants in buildings Icon owns and manages.
Icon will pay $300,000 to the State of New York to fund the task force’s cost of the investigation and $200,000 in penalties, fees and costs to New York City’s Housing Preservation & Development and Department of Buildings. The settlement covers hundreds of tenants currently living in Icon’s rent-regulated buildings located in the East Village, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn.
The task force investigation found that tenants were subjected to adverse living conditions, including excessive dust and debris from construction in the building common areas and apartments. It reported Icon ignored tenants’ requests for repairs, failed to appropriately clean and maintain construction work areas, failed to correct housing and building code violations in a timely way, and subjected tenants to extended interruptions of heat, hot water, cooking gas and elevator service. The Task Force noted that on multiple occasions Icon failed to obtain necessary Department of Building work permits and performed construction outside the scope of issued permits.
Schneiderman says, “Too often, bad landlords see rent-regulated apartments as a goldmine, looking to make a quick buck by using construction to harass tenants out of their homes. The settlement marks another win for New York’s tenants as our Task Force Continues to protect their rights and hold landlords accountable.”
Icon attorney Ken Fisher of Cozen O’Connor tells GlobeSt.com, “Icon never, ever intended to harass tenants and the Task Force made no finding of harassment because none occurred, no tenants were displaced and any claim to the contrary is just political hype.”
Fisher also notes that there were some construction issues in a handful of buildings which Icon addressed over a year ago, giving affected tenants rent abatements, and changing their procedures to prevent reoccurrence.
An Assurance of Discontinuance signed by the attorney general’s office, Cohen and Lowenberg requires Icon to adopt policies and procedures to prevent future violations and safety risks. It corrects outstanding housing and building code violations; establishes safe construction practices; provides for rent abatements; and sets up an independent monitor to ensure Icon’s compliance with the agreement.