New York Attorney General James busts landlord for de-regulating buildings and scamming banks

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As part of the settlement, Ink will pay $1.75 million to preserve affordable housing, because Ink also harassed tenants by illegally offering to buy out their rent-stabilized leases to clear out the units and re-list them as market-rate housing, James said.

Ink also will have to fork over $400,000 to tenants who experienced hardships while Ink let buildings deteriorate to force them out, the Attorney General’s Office said, adding that at least 28 apartments that had been deregulated will be re-regulated.

“Lying and cutting corners to evade rent stabilization is one of the oldest tricks of the trade, but Ink’s years of exploiting our hardworking neighbors without consequences end here,” James said in a statement. “These tenants organized and fought back, and because of their efforts, they will be compensated for the suffering they’ve survived.”

A message left at Ink’s Park Avenue South office for Alex Kahen, a company co-founder, was not returned. But a person who answered the phone there said another Ink principal, Robert Kaydanian, who has appeared on city and state “worst landlord” lists, no longer works for the firm. The third Ink principal accused of wrongdoing by James was Ink co-founder Eden Ashourzadeh.

Signatures of all three men appear on the settlement.

Buyouts and harassment
 

While Ink’s scheme ensnarled nearly four dozen properties in neighborhoods including Crown Heights and Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Ridgewood in Queens, the approach with each property followed a similar pattern.

After buying an apartment building, Ink would try to replace its middle-class tenants with wealthier ones, through buyouts or harassment. And if those efforts failed, or even if they succeeded, the company would weave exaggerated tales about high-rent occupants to present flattering pictures of their buildings’ financial health, as in the case of 767 Hart.

In 2016 Ink’s principals purchased the 3-story, six-unit building for $1.11 million and set about clearing the building immediately. Two residents, who were paying $575 and $900 per month, were offered buyouts, which ran afoul of a process put in place to safeguard rent-regulated tenants, according to court documents.

Then Ink went to lenders with leases showing that the two apartments were now renting for much higher rates: $2,600 per month. In fact, they were vacant, James said.

Still, the ploy seemed to work. In 2016 Hanover Community Bank on Long Island provided Ink with an $825,000 loan. Tax records show that additional funding of $700,000 came about a year later from Brick Sunset Capital, a private-equity group in Manhattan.

The next year, Ink used buyouts to empty the other four rent-stabilized units at 767 Hart. And again, it went shopping for loans. This time, one came from Signature Bank, in the amount of $2.2 million. To qualify for that mortgage, Ink claimed the four recently emptied apartments were then leasing for $3,000 to $3,200 per month. But while they were indeed rented, James said, no tenant was paying more than $2,700 at the time.

The $2,700 rent, documents show, was for No. 1L, a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on the first floor. Online ads today tout its “total gut renovation” and “glass stall showers featuring multijet shower heads and heated bathroom floors.”

And Ink, in a way, seems to have eventually gotten its price. In April the unit rented for $3,300 per month—according to a StreetEasy listing.



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