EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – There are new questions Wednesday about a New York City program that moves homeless families to New Jersey.
For months, CBS2 has been telling you about the forgotten families placed by the city in dilapidated homes.
On Wednesday, another landlord answered to a judge, and CBS2’s Lisa Rozner was there.
“You failed to provide heat at the temperature that was required, is that correct?” the judge asked landlord Sean Richway.
“Yes, your honor,” Richway replied.
Richway, of Maryland, was forced to show up in court on a $50,000 bench warrant. He pleaded guilty in East Orange housing court for letting a single mom from Brooklyn live in deplorable conditions, including leaky ceilings, no heat, no working bathroom and mold.
Rozner tried to get answers from Richway after court.
“Absolutely not,” Richway’s attorney said as Rozner approached.
“Mr. Richway, can we just ask you a few questions?” Rozner asked.
“You need to stop,” Richway’s attorney said, and then covered CBS2’s camera with a file folder.
“Why are you blocking us?” Rozner asked. “Why did it take your client so long to fix the apartment?”
Lease records show New York City paid Richway’s company around $21,000 to rent to Joselyn Gonzalez. The city moved her out of a shelter as part of SOTA – Special One Time Assistance program. In CBS2’s two month investigation, we found the Department of Homeless Services, or DHS, paid private landlords up front and in full for unlivable units in New Jersey.
When the landlords disappeared, families told CBS2 DHS did not help.
Richway was slapped with around $2,000 in fines Wednesday.
“I had to live through hell for 9 months and he gets away with $2,000,” said Gonzalez. “He should have been punished a lot more than just that.”
It wasn’t until after last week’s court date that repairs started happening. But the SOTA tenant tells Rozner she’ll be moving out of this apartment when her lease is up in June.
So how is New York City connecting residents with dilapidated apartments?
Another SOTA recipient, Andrea Robinson, told Rozner DHS brought her to Iridium Realty Group in East Orange. She says a man named Joe from Iridium placed her and three other New Yorkers in a dilapidated building.
“What did Joe tell you about the apartment?” Rozner asked.
“Oh, it’s beautiful, they’re getting renovated its lovely, lovely building,” Robinson said.
Rozner went back to Iridium with Andrea.
“We just want to find out how New York City Homeless Services is working with your brokerage firm to bring residents here?” Rozner asked a man Andrea identified as Joe.
“Please leave my office. You’re trespassing. Leave my office,” Joe said, and slammed the door shut.
“What is your involvement with New York City SOTA?” Rozner asked.
Then he kicked Andrea out, too.
“That’s Joe. That’s the guy,” she said.
“So joe, are you taking money from New York City?” Rozner asked.
More questions than answers.
Outside, there was a van with a New York City parking tag. The driver told Rozner he dropped another New Yorker from a shelter to look at apartments.
This week, the city’s commissioner for Homeless Services told CBS2 the SOTA program is still going on, but it has changed inspection requirements. He also claims that the city is investigating landlords.