By Cassandre Juste
Castellan Real Estate Partners/Liberty Place Property Management, a New York landlord and property management firm with roughly 1,700 rent-regulated units under management in 35 buildings, remains under fire for their alleged gentrification scheme. The plan was simple: evict, intimidate, invent fees and otherwise push out the immigrant tenants in the company's higher-demand buildings, to sign new rental contracts with non-immigrant tenants paying higher rents.
But after news reports went live accusing the landlord of harassing Spanish-speaking tenants, the Tenant Protection Unit, created by Governor Cuomo, served the landlord with a subpoena to produce past rental papers. The probe began thirty days after news started airing about the scandal in parts of Harlem and the South Bronx where rents are on the rise.
The accusations include the company charging fake fees and randomly demanding that Spanish-speaking tenants with existing leases prove their immigration status and income. Some tenants were also threatened with eviction when their immigration status was not conclusively proven by existing tenants. Cuomo’s team condemns all of these actions as extremely illegal.
While Castellan/Liberty has denied the allegations, Governor Cuomo remains enraged by the situation. “I am disturbed by the allegations that led to the . . . investigation, but hope that it will put bad landlords on notice.”
So far Castellan/Liberty has only sent rent arrears notices to tenants, said Jamie Heiberger, a spokeswoman. She asserts the landlord is fully willing to cooperate with the subpoena and the investigation.