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Modus Operandi

TENANTS ARE UNDER ATTACK!

Tenants in New York City are being swept up in a wave of insatiable greed by predatory landlords that are devouring rent regulated buildings throughout our City. It’s no secret that real estate is BIG BUSINESS in New York and that these landlords have fast penetrated into every neighborhood and community in the City. Gone are the scruffy absentee or dead-beat landlords of the sixties and seventies. They have been replaced by a sophisticated breed of slick and slippery outlaws that play a whole new game. And these new era landlords employ a slew of bullying tactics in order to FORCE you out! They don’t want your rent - THEY WANT YOU OUT.

We as Croman tenants have fallen victim to a familiar pattern of abuse that is being replicated throughout New York City. We believe that the elements of this pattern are not haphazard or accidental, but in fact, constitute a carefully a calculated business model, i.e., template for the ultimate forced EVICTION of rent regulated tenants. Nobody more typifies this group of unscrupulous landlords than Steve and Harriet Croman and their various entities: Croman Real Estate, Croman Realty and 9300 Realty - who own and operate an estimated 185 - plus buildings registered under separate LLCs throughout the city.

Once the Cromans /9300 Realty acquire a building, a predictable pattern emerges. The first targets are the most vulnerable: minority tenants, the elderly, the infirm, and disabled, as well as any delinquent tenant. Tenants are badgered with relentless phone calls and unannounced visits pressuring them to move or accept paltry buyouts to vacate.

Croman has in house private investigators (now called tenant relocators) on staff at 9300 Realty. The buildings are rigged with hidden surveillance cameras in order to monitor tenants.

After this first wave of elimination of tenants is complete, the second wave commences “,  Renovations” begin and the building becomes a hazardous construction site, full of dirt and debris, lead, asbestos, insects, mice and rats. Walls, stairwells, windows and doorways are ripped out and left in piles of rubble for the tenants to navigate their way around, while ducking dangling electrical wires and leaking plumbing pipes. The accompanying noise is deafening and non-stop at all hours of the day and night. Packs of undocumented workers wander the hallways and superintendents guard the entrance ways to the building denying access to the building and any city inspectors. This transforms the premises into an uninhabitable danger zone, and the remaining tenants are driven to vacate what is left of their homes.

Those tenants tough enough to hang on can look forward to a third wave of substandard living conditions and a lack of basic services, while engaging in a fourth wave simultaneously fending off an endless stream of frivolous and bogus law suits. If that fails to force out those remaining tenants, it serves, at a minimum, to intimidate and confuse them, and wear them out emotionally and financially. It should also be noted that this strategy of outrageously conceived court actions is carefully crafted to set the stage for future eviction by tricking the tenant into unknowingly forfeiting their rights, by signing some sort of stipulation or agreement. Regardless of the outcome of the court action it will be sure to guarantee the tenant a spot on the National Tenant Blacklist.

In the meantime, behind the scenes, the Cromans are busy racking up phony rent rolls, replete with illusory tenants, false registrations and inaccurate rent histories. Because the Cromans refuse to repair tenants’ apartments, they accumulate a massive amount of building violations, which, when reported, gives the Landlord an excuse to schedule repairs that are never done. Thus, the tenant is compelled to stay at home for days on end waiting for repairmen that never show up. Tenants are then forced to re-file these complaints, only to find that they have disappeared from the HPD and DOB records, despite the fact that the repairs have not been made. Curiously enough, the landlord had already filed false documentation to government agencies certifying that these same repairs had been cured.

Although these patterns have proven to be very successful in displacing tenants and turning over huge profits, Steve Croman and other landlords continue to step up their attack arsenal. They continuously devise new schemes to maximize their business model and drastically cut costs. Why go to all the trouble and expense of terrorizing tenants one-by-one and filing individual lawsuits when you can simply eliminate the entire tenancy of a whole building in one fell swoop. Steve and Harriet Croman already occupy multi-million dollar mansions in Pound Ridge, NY, one in Sagaponack in the Hamptons, as well as several other apartments around the City.

Nevertheless, in 2003 that didn’t stop the Cromans from exploiting the Owner Occupancy Law in order to empty out 2 entire buildings and evict 23 families from 12-14 E. 72nd Street in order to create yet another mansion they could occupy. It will be the largest private residence in Manhattan; a single family home with two pools, one indoor and one outdoor pool, nine full bathrooms, seven half bathrooms, six wet bars, a basketball court, two rooftop terraces and the addition of a copper-clad penthouse with an open Pergola and a koi pond. However, 12 years later both buildings remain unoccupied, still under renovation at an estimated cost of $100 million. Whether or not they actually ever move in remains to be seen, but in the meantime the Cromans, one family, have been successful in eliminating 23 families from their homes.

In an even more brazen and questionable tactic, in 2006 Steve Croman sought to exploit a loophole in the DHCR rulebook and attempted a “phony” demolition in order to evict the entire tenancy at 345 East 5th Street.

Implicit in their business model is the ultimate EVICTION of as many tenants as possible. Your empty apartment represents an exponential increase in profits for them and a bargaining chip for leveraging other properties. Therefore, they continue to come up with new nefarious schemes that are highly suspect under the law. For example, with the Cromans owing over a million dollars in unpaid ECB fines (Link), as well as fines to the NYC Department of Finance, DHCR false filings and infractions, somebody must be looking the other way. This would not be possible without the cooperation of city agencies and high level officials, as well politicians who have been the recipients of generous donations and campaign contributions from the Cromans. (Link) According to the NY Observer neighbors have commented that “ ... there are a lot of highly suspicious goings-on that might be stopped if a shady billionaire were not “ greasing the palms of city officials.”

Despite being under current investigation by the New York State Attorney General, Steven Croman continues to step up his attack on tenants with a slew of new lawyers and employees that appear to be well versed in his Modus Operandi – of tenant harassment and displacement. The Cromans appetite for acquiring property shows no sign of slowing down either. Our goal is to Stop Croman and hold him accountable for continuing to break the laws with impunity, thereby destroying people's lives and what is left of affordable housing in NYC.