New York City paid landlords up front, and now that rental assistance program is under review.
CBS2’s Lisa Rozner again confronted one landlord accused of renting some of the properties.
“How are you sweetheart? Good to see you again,” landlord Sean Young told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner in housing court. The greeting was a stark contrast to two weeks ago, when Rozner tried to speak with him and attorney Calvin Souder and was pushed around.
Wednesday, they again tried dodging CBS2’s cameras and walked into moving traffic.
“What do you have to say to the families that froze in the winter without heat or hot water because you didn’t fix their homes?” Rozner asked.
Young kept walking.
“How much money did you take from the SOTA program in New York City?” Rozner asked.
“How much did they take from me is the question,” Young said.
Leases for two families Young rented to in East Orange show New York City handed him around $40,000 up front as part of the city’s Special One Time Assistance program, also known as SOTA. The Department of Homeless Services, or DHS, covers one year’s rent for eligible working parents, with the city paying private landlords up front and in full. The tenants told CBS2 Young rented them apartments that never had heat, lights or running water.
After CBS2’s reporting, Young moved one family to another property.
“As of today, nothing’s been done with regard to that property,” said East Orange prosecutor Mark Cintron.
Young is not the only one doing business with New York City’s SOTA program that was in court Wednesday. Rozner also found an attorney representing another landlord, Sean Richway.
“I went back and wrote another 18 tickets just on an apartment. There’s only five rooms in this house to tell you how horrible it is,” said East Orange housing inspector Sultan Muhammad.
Richway is in Maryland, while SOTA recipients live in those conditions on North 18th Street.
“This is my city and I don’t want to see any child, any elderly person under those conditions,” said East Orange Mayor Ted Green.
“Have you ever met Mayor Bill de Blasio?” Rozner asked.
“No I haven’t, but I would love to sit down and have a conversation with him,” Green said.
The East Orange mayor says he and the Director of Property Maintenance Mark Barner have been trying to contact DHS for weeks. Tuesday, Barner received a call from a city agency: The Department of Investigation, an independent watchdog. Today, they were in court.
“They contacted me saying they’re investigating the SOTA program in New York City,” Barner said. “They also said they knew of more properties in East Orange where the SOTA program is being conducted.”
The Department of Investigation told CBS2 it is aware of the matter and declines further comment.
“While we can’t discuss ongoing investigations, we’re working diligently with our law enforcement partners to aggressively address this potential fraud to hold any bad actors accountable and ensure our neighbors in need can get back on their feet in the communities of their choice,” the Department of Homeless Services said in a statement.