For every “Best of 2022” list, there are also the “Worst of” rankings. This year’s “Worst Landlords” list, compiled by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is topped by the landlord of the neighborhood’s most notoriously neglected properties — 410 and 412 W46th Street. Williams named the owner as Johnathan Santana, and called him the worst landlord in New York City for a string of violations at properties in Manhattan and Queens.
Santana is at the head of the LLC which owns the infamous 410 and 412 W46th Street properties, where residents have suffered without heat, hot water, building security and safe infrastructure for years. He also owns other properties in Hell’s Kitchen: 438 W45th Street, 440 W45th Street and 452 W36th Street. Williams’ list names him as having the highest total number of Housing Preservation Department (HPD) and Department of Buildings (DOB) violations in the city.
Santana’s 15 properties have an average of 2,980 open HPD violations and 32 DOB violations at any given time. He also appears to operate a confusing web of liability limited companies, or LLCs, with overlapping names, which makes it difficult to track ownership and hold rogue owners accountable.
Santana was named by Williams as the owner of Highpoint Associates XII, which mortgage documents confirm is the owner of 410 and 412. Litigation brought by the city under its 7A program, which would seize control of the building from the rogue landlord, is directed at Keystone Management and names Robin Ignico as the Tenant Relations and Leasing Manager of that company.
The two are closely linked. Highpoint and Keystone share an address in Sherman Oaks, CA, and Ignico has also listed rental properties under “Highpoint Associates”. Both were listed as co-defendants in a previous property lawsuit. W42ST has reached out to Ignico for comment and will update if we hear back. Santana could not be located.
A previous court case named the president of Highpoint Associates XII as Daniel Ohebshalom. Highpoint became the owners of the property in 1999. Legal documents show the previous owner was a company run by Fred Ohebshalom, a large-scale New York property developer.
410 W46th Street resident Marc McBarron Kessler said: “The whole situation feels very Wizard of Oz as we struggle to learn who the man (or woman) behind the curtain actually is. Knowing the true identity of your landlord shouldn’t be such a mystery, especially when they’re number one on the list of New York City’s worst landlords and you are involved in a 7A trial. We can’t even protest outside their home because we have no idea where they live.”
Despite their condition and the ongoing litigation, the two buildings are for sale at a price of $11,700,000. The properties have also been listed by realtor Cushman Wakefield as “an excellent opportunity for an investor to add value through both substantial rehabilitation and renovation to two adjacent five-story walk up apartment buildings in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood” and re-list them at market rate prices.”
Some of the tenants in 410 W46th Street previously interviewed by W42ST are on rent-stabilized leases and despite the realtor’s claim that a Certificate of Non-Harassment — a verification that owners have not pressured rent stabilized tenants to leave in favor of delisting units at market rates — is in place, many have repeatedly told W42ST that the building’s current conditions and neglect by landlords are proof that they are being harassed to move out.
“In putting together the Worst Landlord Watchlist, we found far too many instances of landlords failing to live up to their most basic responsibilities of being a steward for the housing of renters who call New York home,” said Public Advocate Williams in a statement announcing proposed legislation ensuring greater landlord accountability for fixing violations.
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In addition to violations by private landlords, Williams cited the city’s own housekeeping through NYCHA as unacceptable, with 668,000 open work orders at properties around the city up from 600,000 in 2021. That put him at odds with the HPD, which oversees NYCHA.
A HPD spokesperson told W42ST: “As New York City’s frontline defense against unsafe housing conditions, HPD is pursuing enforcement action against many of the properties on this list. All New Yorkers deserve safe housing, and we will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to enforce the city’s housing maintenance code. We appreciate the Public Advocate and all of our partners who help hold the worst actors accountable.”
In Hell’s Kitchen, accountability for repairs needed at 410 W46th Street is desperately needed. This month W42ST found open doors, windows and abandoned apartments which have allowed squatters to take root in the buildings hallways, stairwells and empty units. While the building is currently under litigation to be reclaimed by the city under the 7A housing program, the current ownership and management of Santana and Ignico is still at the helm.
“In case after case, violation after unchecked violation, bad actors demonstrated an inability or an unwillingness to live up to their end of the bargain – and it’s past time to put in place meaningful reforms to not just call out these actions, but to put a stop to them,” Williams said. “This legislation is about preventing landlords from evading accountability and protecting their tenants from conditions which are physically unsafe or otherwise insecure.”
In a previous version of this story, we stated that Robin Ignico was an owner of the buildings mentioned. Because of the lack of transparency of ownership of the LLCs involved, it is impossible to determine individual ownership. Ignico is Tenant Relations and Leasing Manager for the properties and in a court affidavit in September 2019 said “I am responsible for handling all matters relating to tenants, including leasing, tenant complaints, and compliance with Code and other regulations.”