A Brooklyn landlord has become the first person arrested under a new city-state campaign to go after property owners who threaten and harass rent-stabilized tenants, Mayor de Blasio and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday.
Daniel Melamed, 39, was indicted on charges of unlawful eviction, child endangerment and filing false documents in harassment of rent-protected tenants at the Crown Heights building he owns.
The mayor and Schneiderman formed a task force to go after landlords who illegally force out rent-stabilized tenants so they can jack up the rent.
“They put the health and safety of tenants at risk,” said Schneiderman, calling the case “textbook tenant harassment” and noting that the landlord faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
De Blasio referred to the standoff in Albany that allowed rent regulation to expire Monday, saying cases like this show how the law should be strengthened for tenants by eliminating the “vacancy decontrol” loophole that allows owners to hike rents when certain units become vacant.
“The current law must be changed now because it rewards vacancies,” he said. “We see this over and over.”
The charges involve a Melamed building on Union St. where he began illegal construction and demolition last year.
The indictment alleges he knocked down interior walls and destroyed common spaces, and illegally shut off heat to rent-stabilized tenants as temperatures plummeted in December.
He also exposed tenants — including a 6-year-old — to toxic lead paint dust. In some apartments the dust tested at 80 times above acceptable levels, the indictment alleges.
One tenant told investigators she had to cover her 6-year olds mouth and nose with a wet cloth every time they left the apartment.
Prosecutors also allege Melamed filed false documents with the buildings department, claiming his building was vacant when it was filled with tenants.
Melamed’s arrest comes two days after Albany politicians let rent regulation laws expire.
De Blasio and the Democrat-controlled Assembly are pressing to renew the laws with tougher protection for tenants, while the Republican-run Senate wants income verification for all tenants protected by rent stabilization, a position embraced by landlords.
As of Wednesday, landlord Melamed’s building had 251 open housing code violations, including 185 deemed serious by the city Department of Housing Preservation & Development.
The building is so bad it’s been put in HPD’s “alternative enforcement program” for careful monitoring by the city, records show.
Most of the violations date back years but have not yet been certified as resolved, records show. Violations included flaking lead paint, no hot water and busted door locks and mailboxes.
Since 2012, the city has sued Melamed five times for lack of heat and hot water, records show. A tenant-initiated suit is still pending.
Melamed was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon. A licensed engineer he hired for the Union St. job, Pirooz Soltanizadeh, 39, was also arrested.