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NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 03-08
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Seth McM. Donlin (212) 863-5176


LANDLORD JAILED FOR INHUMAN CONDITIONS IN BRONX BUILDING

Sentenced to Nine Days in Jail and Forced to pay $156,000 in Fines and Penalties

Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan today announced that Landlord Hamid Khan has been sentenced to nine days in jail for criminal contempt for failing to repair hundreds of violations of the Housing Maintenance Code, including immediately hazardous conditions, in his tenants’ apartments. The case involved 1055 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a 94-unit building in the Bronx. There are currently 2,268 outstanding Housing Maintenance Code violations on the six story building.  Conditions in the building that were referenced in court included severe water damage, collapsed floors and ceilings, construction debris throughout the building, a broken toilet, a broken intercom and a defective fire escape. In November of last year, the building was included in HPD’s new Alternative Enforcement Program which targets some of the city’s most troublesome buildings for comprehensive review and repairs

"Landlords who violate the law will be held accountable," said Commissioner Donovan, “Landlords have a legal obligation to provide safe and decent apartments to their tenants.  HPD will not hesitate to sue landlords who flout the law and we will aggressively seek maximum penalties.  For an owner like Hamid Khan, who lets his tenants suffer through conditions unfit for human habitation, a sentence of actual jail time is well-deserved."

HPD's Housing Litigation Division, which handles nearly 14,000 cases per year to enforce the City's Housing Maintenance Code, prosecuted the case.  In late 2006, HPD commenced a case against Mr. Khan seeking correction of violations at 1055 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.  At that time, there were more than 1,400 violations at this building.  On October 19, 2006, Mr. Khan signed an Order to Correct, requiring that all violations be corrected within 90 days.

After multiple inspections over several weeks by HPD had shown that most of the violations had not been corrected, HPD filed motions for Civil and Criminal Contempt, Civil Penalties and a new Order to Correct in April 2007.  At that time the violation count had increased to over 2,100 and three apartments had been vacated by the Department of Buildings due to unsafe conditions.

The trial commenced on July 10, 2007, with Wendi Higginbotham of the Housing Litigation Division’s Bronx office representing HPD and Judge Jerald Klein presiding. Testimony and evidence were admitted and, in addition, Judge Klein visited the building on November 29 and December 6. The trial concluded on January 8, 2008 and Judge Klein issued his decision on January 28. Highbridge Apartments, LLC and Hamid Khan were assessed a $1,000 fine for criminal contempt and $155,000 in civil penalties. In addition, Mr. Khan was sentenced to serve nine days in jail. He is required to surrender himself to the Bronx Sheriff’s office.

Over the past 12 months, HPD has completed over $55,000 worth of emergency repair work at 1055 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Last November the building was placed in HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program—a new housing safety program aimed at improving the conditions at 200 of the City’s most distressed residential buildings. Under the program, landlords are put on notice that comprehensive repairs must be made and, if they are not, HPD is given authorization to undertake a comprehensive review of the building, to make the necessary repairs and to bill the landlord for that work.

Housing court judges usually impose fines as a penalty against landlords found in contempt and in Fiscal Year 2007 HPD collected $4.52 million in fines. However, judges will sometime decide that jail time is deserved. The last time that a building owner or managing agent received jail time in an HPD prosecuted case in New York City was in February 2006 when building owner Olufemi Falade agreed to a finding of civil contempt for failing to correct scores of violations at his buildings at 367 Tompkins Avenue, 543 Madison Street and 1122 New York Avenue in Brooklyn. In August 2005 building owner John A. Kosman pled guilty to criminal contempt for failing to repair scores of violations at his building at 117 West 142nd Street in Harlem.  Thanks to HPD’s work, the 2005 Housing and Vacancy Study, using US Census data, showed that overall satisfaction with the City’s housing stock is the highest ever recorded.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development's mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers. The department is the nation's largest municipal housing development agency and is implementing Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. The New Housing Marketplace Plan is the largest municipal affordable housing effort in the nation's history. HPD also encourages the preservation of affordable housing through education, outreach, loan programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.

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