The March/April issue of City Limits Magazine hits the nail on the head by addressing important issues that we at UHAB work on and think about daily. The entire magazine, titled “The Phantom Landlord” is dedicated to exposing notorious slumlord Frank Palazzolo. In five in-depth articles the CUNY Investigate team uncovers his slippery business style and the tragedy that unfolds as a result. The series ends with a critique of possible solutions, including a new “landlord licensing law.” Along the way, the magazine discusses lending practices and well as innovative policy proposals which could have major impacts on tenant’s lives.
Like almost everyone who has ever worked in NYC housing, we know the name Frank Palazzolo well. Long-time readers of our blog may remember our turbulent fight alongside tenants in 8 Bronx Buildings, sold out of foreclosure last March. Frank Palazzolo was connected to the owners of these buildings, and responsible for driving them into the ground. Companies registered with his Scarsdale address are connected to hundreds of highly distressed properties, but he manages to avoid accountability. As CUNY Investigative Team (responsible for many of the articles in this issue) reports in Chapter 1: “Hundreds of Properties, Millions of Dollars, no Landlord”
Even though the scores of buildings he was associated with teemed with violations and creaked in disrepair, actual legal ownership of most of the properties was usually in the hands of others. The question of who was responsible was forever murky. Lawyers, housing officials and tenant organizers always had a tough, if not impossible, time pinning down Palazzolo’s exact responsibility.
The subsequent three chapters tell the story of a tragic building fire, a complicated corporate policy that dodges responsibility, and an attempt by HPD to “pierce the corporate veil” of Palazzolo’s dirty empire. The final chapter in the five part series is a critique of landlord licensing, a hot new idea that would make it impossible to purchase distressed buildings without proper experience and appropriate record. This could be the answer to preventing tyrants like Palazzolo from continuing to purchase distressed buildings and run them deeper into the ground.
City Limits delves into New York housing issues, and questions why banks are allowed to lend to property owners with such abominable records. Edward Josephson from South Brooklyn Legal Services writes about proposed City Council legislation which would require landlords to go beyond patchwork repairs and address underlying conditions. In his article “Council Eyes Systematic Remedy for Housing Violations”, he writes, “Tenants may for the first time experience a code enforcement system that rewards their organizing efforts with lasting improvements in their buildings and their lives.”
The issue even has a tidbit for the gossip page: it reveals Marc Sarfati, father of “Glee” star Lea Michele, to be an associate of Frank Palazzolo. We could keep talking forever about these articles, but why not just have a look for yourself? Click here to read this month’s edition of “City Limits.” If you’re interested in checking out conditions in a Palazzolo building, visit Picture This! and check out 1221-1225 Sheridan Avenue.