New York City real estate is a hot commodity, especially so these last several years as rent growth has soared above historical averages. One of the way New York City has attempted to make some units remain affordable is through rent stabilization. However, for a landlord to accept rents almost three times lower than what he or she could be making doesn't make the property as valuable as it could be.
That's the case for several landlords, one of whom is Steve Croman. Croman spent decades buying up cheap properties and using every loophole possible to kick out his rent-stabilized tenants, flip the property, and bring in market-rate renters. Many of the rent-stabilized tenants lawyered up, but Croman just used other tactics:
Bob Leighton, a criminal defense attorney who lived in the building for 35 years, says Croman tried something new practically every day: “He would remove the washing machines. He tried to close the front door, make everybody go through the basement. He got rid of the super, then had a part-time super who did nothing.” Another former tenant forwarded me a 15,000-word document detailing four years of tribulations: No hot water. No cold water. Rodents. Severed phone lines. Holes in ceilings. A fire. “He was taking the building apart, bit by bit,” says Malcolm Kirk, a photographer who paid less than $1,000 a month for a third-floor studio he shared with his wife.