It’s the latest civil penalty leveled against Jason Korn, the former “Worst Landlord” on the Public Advocate’s annual list of terrible property owners.
One of New York’s most notorious landlords will pay $82,500 to settle dozens of lead paint violations inside six of his Brooklyn apartment buildings, the city’s housing agency said Wednesday.
It’s the latest civil penalty leveled against Jason Korn, the former “Worst Landlord” on the Public Advocate’s annual list of terrible property owners, and comes after the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) ordered him to correct over 80 lead paint violations at buildings in Crown Heights, Flatbush and Midwood. Last year, HPD fined Korn $235,000 and also made him remove lead paint in six of his buildings, all incorporated under limited liability companies (LLCs), with more than 388 households in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“Homes where young children are living must be lead-free,” said HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. “Landlords should know that HPD will use the full weight of its enforcement powers to keep our children in safe housing.”
As part of the newly announced settlement, Korn is forced to remove the lead paint from five of the buildings within 90 days. The new owner of the sixth building will also have to correct the toxic problem. The buildings are located at 1690 President St., 410 Westminster Road, 1909 Quentin Road, 1435 Carroll St., 1439 Ocean Ave. and 1921 Avenue I.
Korn and his attorney did not respond to phone messages Wednesday.
Under the 2014 New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, known as Local Law 1, owners of buildings with three or more units constructed before 1960 must identify apartments with children younger than 6 years old and inspect them for lead paint every year. They must also hire a company certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when removing more than 100 square feet of lead paint, replacing windows or fixing HPD violations.
Lead exposure is associated with developmental delays, and is particularly dangerous for young children who are more likely to chew lead-based paint.
HPD said the settlement is the latest example of its crackdown on major landlords who fail to address lead paint hazards. In addition to the penalties assessed to Korn last year, HPD hit Queens property magnate Ved Parkash—another perennial member of the “Worst Landlord” list—with $60,000 in penalties for ignoring lead paint at four buildings in The Bronx and Queens.
Several tenant advocates have called on the city to step up enforcement of rampant code violations that endanger residents—a proposal potentially complicated by staff shortages.
At a June panel discussion hosted by the Supportive Housing Network of New York, Carrión said HPD was down more than 120 inspectors but has been “aggressively hiring.”
“We’ve lost hundreds of people,” he said. “The issue for our agency is we’re a great training ground for professionals in real estate.”
Those staffing shortages at HPD impact the agency’s ability to conduct more investigations, said attorney Sateesh Nori, the executive director of the housing justice organization JustFix.
He said the penalties leveled against Korn and Parkash are encouraging but are a drop in the bucket compared to the extent of the problem.
“Even if they go after a couple of bad actors, are they really getting a sense of the problem across the city?” he said, adding that for some property owners, fines and penalties are part of the business model.
Most will avoid any enforcement at all, he said.
“It’s kind of like a drug bust where they might parade out the contraband and the guns, but underlying all this, business is still going as usual,” she said.
Justin La Mort, a managing attorney at the organization Mobilization For Justice, said property owners who routinely rack up code violations and foster unsafe conditions for tenants should face more serious consequences, like receivership or criminal penalties. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg recently announced the creation of a Housing and Tenant Protection Unit to tackle fraud and repeat violations.
“When you have someone who is on the Worst Landlord List for years, I think it would be appropriate to consider any and all of those options,” La Mort said.