‘There needs to be consequences’: City reaches settlement with ‘worst landlord’

Tenants of 776 Crown St. and 1616 President St. demand a meeting with their landlord — one of the worst in the city.
Photo by Ben Verde

The city has reached a settlement over repeat building code and tenant harassment violations with a Brooklyn-based landlord who has topped the Public Advocate’s Worst Landlord list two years in a row.

Jason Korn, who owns a slew of properties in Brooklyn and Manhattan incorporated under LLCs, has reached an agreement with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to pony up $235,000 in civil penalties for hundreds of violations at six buildings, four in Brooklyn and two in Manhattan, and agreed to correct all active housing code violations within 90 days and to come into compliance with the city’s tenant harassment law.

“Landlords have a responsibility to provide safe housing for their tenants and when they fail to meet that responsibility, there needs to be consequences,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll in a statement. “Even while we offer assistance to tenants and landlords who are struggling to maintain their properties, landlords should know that HPD will also use the full weight of its enforcement capabilities if they repeatedly fail to uphold their obligation to ensure that New Yorkers live in safe and secure housing.”

The six buildings in question are home to 388 households, according to HPD. Of the four in Brooklyn, two of them are in Midwood (1921 Ave. I and 1439 Ocean Ave.) while the other two are in Flatbush (578 E. 17th St. and 250 E. 29th St.). The buildings involved in the settlement also include two in Inwood, Manhattan.

Korn has exhibited gross negligence in managing his properties, HPD found. Investigators documented hundreds of violations in 35 inspections at the buildings in question, finding rampant rodent and insect infestation, mold, lead paint violations, and leaks, among other things. On numerous occasions, Korn also submitted paperwork falsely certifying that outstanding violations had been corrected.

The department says it will continue monitoring Korn’s buildings to ensure he complies with the terms of the settlement, and says it will take him to court if he fails to do so.

Korn has a whopping ten buildings, with 459 total units, listed on Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ 2020 worst landlord list, where he holds the distinct dishonor of being the number 1 worst individual landlord in the entire city. Throughout 2020, Korn maintained a jaw-dropping average of 1,822 open housing code violations at his properties at any one time. 

Conditions in Korn’s properties are so heinous that tenants are risking eviction to organize against his neglect, including at buildings that aren’t part of the settlement. Tenants at 1616 President St. in Crown Heights went on a rent strike last year in protest of widespread horrific conditions like broken locks on front doors, leaky pipes, crumbling or collapsed ceilings, mold, and pest infestations, Curbed reported. Korn reportedly responded by threatening to evict them.

At nearby 776 Crown St., tenants are calling for top-to-bottom repairs of issues like collapsed ceilings and widespread mold. One tenant told Brooklyn Paper in May that the mold was so bad in her apartment that her daughter had developed asthma. An inspector sent by the landlord contended the apartment was mold-free, but when she called 311 to bring in her own inspector, she was advised that the situation was so bad that her best option was to relocate.

Reached for comment, Korn’s attorney John Bianco said that the landlord was already engaged in remediation work when HPD reached out with the settlement offer, which would allow him to minimize legal fees and remove violations from his record. Bianco said that the settlement reached is in the best interest of all parties.

Bianco also said that Williams’ characterization of Korn as the city’s “worst landlord” was a “gross mischaracterization…based on faulty metrics.”

“Korn is a fair, reasonable and caring man who genuinely is concerned for the well-being of the residents of the buildings he manages,” Bianco said in an emailed statement. “The characterization by the Public Advocate of Korn as the ‘worst landlord’ in the city is a gross mischaracterization and one based on faulty metrics intended to further the narrative the PA seeks to create.”

This story has been updated to include comment from Jason Korn’s attorney.