In Sunday’s Daily News there’s an article about a woman, Karen Leiberman, whose building on West 85th Street is being torn down around her. The case is eerily similar to what has been happening to Daniel Peckham in his Chelsea apartment for the past two years. Both cases result from a landlord using a loophole in the housing code to empty a building of its rent-stabilized tenants.
In Peckham’s case it’s the so called “phony demolition” loophole, while in Leiberman’s it’s the owner- occupancy provision. Futher linking the cases is the fact that both landlords – Larry Tauber in Peckham’s case, and Warren Malone in Leiberman’s – lied on their applications for demolition permits: both stated falsely, that their buildings had already been emptied of tenants. And that’s a pretty significant lie, became, even thought the DOB seems to be bending over backward to let owners do whatever they ant with their property, they still require that the buildings not be pulled down on top of somebody’s head.
Daniel Peckham alleges corruption at all levels of the DOB, top to bottom. And while I have no reason to doubt him on this, the author of the Daily News article, Brian Kates, points out the presence of a less nebulous factor in the equation -- the DOB’s self-certification program, whereby owners are trusted to attest to their own compliance with building codes. Whereas in the past years you might have had to grease a few palms to being gutting your building illegally, now all you need to do is falsify a few documents.
As Kates points out, the self-certification program also results in lax safety standards and shoddy work. This should give even the wealthy condo-purchasers pause. It’s a perfect example of how runaway development and gentrification benefits no one – neither rich nor poor – except a few unscrupulous developers and speculators. -- Ed Hamilton