New-York News

‘Worst landlord’ Ohebshalom wanted for arrest in rundown Washington Heights buildings case

A landlord with a notorious reputation for rundown buildings is now a wanted man.

The housing division of Manhattan Supreme Court has approved an arrest warrant for Daniel Ohebshalom for allegedly not fixing hundreds of problems at a pair of sites in Washington Heights.

Judge Jack Stoller signed off on the warrant Friday after Ohebshalom and his associates allegedly failed over the course of more than a year to take care of rat and cockroach infestations, mold and lead paint in apartments and common areas at 705 and 709 W. 170th St., according to court filings.

A rare escalation of a housing court case to a criminal level, the warrant calls for Ohebshalom to spend up to 60 days on Rikers Island unless he addresses the problems, which have been the subject of an ongoing lawsuit brought in 2021 by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Ohebshalom, a frequent presence on the public advocate’s annual worst-landlords list, allegedly racked up more than 700 violations at the two sites, which are 5-story, prewar structures with a total of 41 apartments, records show.

Though Ohebshalom claims to have taken recent steps to improve the properties, such as removing lead paint in some units, Stoller said there is much left undone after Ohebshalom blew off court-ordered appointments for other apartments. And the drawn-out delays suggest Ohebshalom is acting in bad faith, added Stoller, who in early January found Ohebshalon in contempt of the court.

“The most striking factor informing the court’s discretion is the duration of the contempt proceeding,” the judge wrote, amid “months and years of persistence of deplorable living conditions.”

Stoller also ruled that local authorities can avail themselves of federal law enforcement officials in order to go after Ohebshalom in California, where he’s believed to be living.

Pinpointing exact ownership can be difficult in the city’s opaque real estate industry, a challenge that city officials seemed to confront in the case. Officially, the Washington Heights properties are owned by a shell company called Belmont Ventures, records show.

But Ohebshalom, who also goes by Dan Shalom, is the true owner of the rental buildings, officials say. He controls them with Robin Ignico and Gustavo Santana, court filings show, but arrest warrants were not issued for those two men.

Ohebshalom is also linked to a pair of dilapidated properties on West 46th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, which he apparently owns with associate Johnathan Santana. The relationship between Johnathan Santana and Gustavo Santana was not immediately clear. Efforts to track down Ohebshalom and Santana through lawyers they have used in the long-running case were unsuccessful. And an HPD spokeswoman declined further comment.

One of the Hell’s Kitchen properties, 410 W. 46th St., has effectively been wrested away from its landlord and is now being operated by an outside manager that is collecting rents and this spring is to invest proceeds in repairs to the site’s roof and heating systems.

For their part, city officials say the aggressive approach to Ohebshalom is part of a sustained push to rein in landlords at a time of a housing shortage.

“Let this be a message to all landlords that HPD will make certain the law is enforced to protect every New Yorker from dangerous housing conditions,” said HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. in a statement. “We will use every resource available to ensure every New Yorker understands that they have a right to live in a safe and healthy home.”

C. J. Hughes , 2024-03-11 17:34:18

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