NYC’s ‘Worst Landlord,’ Daniel Ohebshalom, Is Charged with Tenant Harassment by D.A.

The latest suite of charges against the notorious landlord, brought by the Manhattan district attorney, accuse him of harassing rent-regulated tenants, child endangerment and filing false documents to conceal building ownership.

| 06 May 2024 | 02:04

New York City slumlord Daniel Ohebshalom, who is currently jailed on Rikers Island, has been hit with a new set of criminal charges. The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in New York State Supreme Court, charges him with harassing rent-regulated tenants, endangering the welfare of a child and filing false records that concealed his ownership of the buildings.

In a May 1 press conference, Bragg accused the landlord of refusing to address the “decrepit conditions” in at least five of his rental properties, “in a concentrated effort to harass” and “drive out” his rent-stabilized tenants.

Bragg went on to describe the “unthinkable conditions’’ that tenants had lived in: they lacked heat and hot water in the depths of winter; squatters took over vacant apartments, where they engaged in illicit activity; leak repairs were so delayed that ceilings collapsed in occupied units. In one of Ohebshalom’s Washington Heights properties, the ceiling had collapsed on a child, according to the indictment.

The harassment was part of the landlord’s strategy to systematically “engineer vacancies” with the intention of turning a higher profit on his properties, the indictment alleges. Once he drove tenants out, it claims, he kept rent-regulated units vacant in practice known as “warehousing,” and spoke openly with business associates about combining and renovating empty apartments so that he could rent out the new units at market rate. He also operated with the goal of emptying out entire buildings, which allowed the landlord to turn a higher profit when they were sold, says the DA’s office. Ohebshalom’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Straus News.

The indictment also charges Ohebshalom with filing false documents to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development by having his business associate’s two employees sign as the people responsible for his buildings. In doing so, he impeded HPD’s efforts to enforce housing code violations and his tenants’ efforts to seek redress for their hazardous housing conditions, the DA’s office accused. Though the DA’s indictment is a high-profile formalization of these complaints, Ohebshalom’s tenants have made allegations of experiencing harassment for decades.

Ohebshalom has held his rental properties through a network of business entities, which allowed him to further obscure his identity. Four of them — Keystone Management Inc., Highpoint Associates XII LLC, Liberty Ventures LLC and Belmont Ventures LLC — are listed as co-defendants in the indictment. (The LLC Transparency Act, slated to go into effect in 2026, will require the beneficial owners of LLCs to disclose their names.)

At his arraignment hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court, Ohebshalom pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released without bail before heading back to Rikers Island to continue serving his 60-day sentence for a separate case, reported Gothamist. In March, he was arrested for failing to make court-ordered repairs to the hazardous conditions in two of his Washington Heights buildings, 705 and 709 W. 170th St., as part of a lawsuit brought against him by HPD. The Washington Heights properties are also named in the DA’s indictment, alongside 410 and 412 W. 46th St. in Hell’s Kitchen and 331 E. 14th St. in the East Village. After lengthy court battles, both 410 W. 46th St. and 331 E. 14th St. are under the management of court-appointed administrators, after tenants suffered uninhabitable conditions for years.

Ohebshalom has earned the number one spot on Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams’ worst landlord watchlist for two years in a row. At the time of the 2023 list’s announcement, he had accrued 3,293 open violations across 306 units — the most of any landlord in the list’s 13-year history.

It appears that Ohebshalom will be ensnared in court battles for years to come: court records show that he is a named defendant in seven active civil lawsuits in New York, six of which have been brought by HPD.