Nina In New York: Bad Landlord, Bad!
A young professional's take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
Apparently, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has a watchlist of NYC's worst landlords. This is great. Also, as it turns out, we're in version "2.0." This, theoretically, is better. And now Craigslist has partnered up with de Blasio's efforts to bring this list to the masses of obsessive, desperate, jaded, overwhelmed and exhausted apartment-seekers in New York. This seems best.
The list has been around since last August, but it appears to have cut a relatively low profile despite its obvious appeal and utility. And based on the number of infractions some of these dirtbags have accrued, it looks like we could all benefit from its more public placement online. 2,047 hits, Lisa Dreshaj? For shame. I'd like to see how you're living.
Anyway, when I saw the news item, I immediately went to check out the Web site. But I was confused, and extremely dubious—where are all the hits between 14th street and 110th? As you get higher up in Manhattan and into the Bronx, more little flags are clustered on the map, but aside from a few hits downtown, the bulk of Manhattan is oddly spotless. In Brooklyn, there is a densely concentrated but relatively small pocket, and Queens just has a smattering. Staten Island has a measly two!
So what does this tell us? That the landlords are peachy throughout most of the city? As the French would say, impossible. My own personal experience and that of others I know is enough to disprove that theory.
Take, for instance, my own former landlord, a charming fellow who may or may not at this point have suffered a debilitating, rage-induced aneurysm. My first and last conversation with him took place around our leaking toilet. And by "leaking," I mean that whenever we flushed, a torrent of water would spring from the pipe and arc clear across the bathroom. I was promised a fix, and when I called to tell him that I was pretty sure toilet water was still madly spewing everywhere, he began to scream so much that I blacked out. I think it ended with him uttering the words, "you're dead to me."
Of course, nothing about this was illegal or dangerous. But there are many levels of "bad landlord," and he squarely occupied a couple of them.
A friend of mine lived in the West Village for a time, in a large but profoundly infested walk-up. She fought constantly with her landlord, who refused to fix the front door properly despite the fact that all the neighborhood vagrants had discovered the convenience of her lobby for activities like relieving themselves, doing drugs and having a quickie behind the stairwell. Nice guy. Lovely guy.
She probably had real cause to make a call to 3-1-1, but she either didn't realize she could or figured it wouldn't get her very far. De Blasio's watchlist both serves to educate tenants on their rights and gives landlords a reason to listen up. The more attention it gets, the more people will realize they can take action, and the more accountable the landlords will be. Ideally.
Sure, it would be cathartic to have a space where tenants and landlords alike could publicly defame one another, but that likely wouldn't result in much other than making renting in New York an even more soul-sucking process. Let's leave the real complaints to the watchlist and hope that map starts to look more fairly representative of the city.
In the meantime, share your stories here! It probably won't change anything, but it might make you feel better about the time your landlord unwished your existence. Oh wait, that was me. I blacked out again. What happened to you?
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
The Nina Archives:
for more features.