The State Attorney General has reached a settlement with Sassan “Sami” Mahfar, the embattled landlord accused of illegally harassing tenants of his Lower East Side buildings in an effort to displace them. As part of the $225,000 settlement, companies owned by Sassan “Sami” Mahfar and Sina Mahfar will pay $175,000 to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and its efforts to combat lead poisoning.
Between 2013 and 2016, Mahfar’s companies “undertook a deliberate campaign to coerce their rent-stabilized tenants to move out of their Lower East Side apartments,” according to a press release from attorney general Eric Schneiderman. A “relocator” offered buyouts to tenants at 22 Spring Street and 210 Rivington and told them they’d have to suffer through construction if they refused, the announcement says. In some cases, construction permit applications failed to disclose the presence of rent-regulated tenants.
At 102 Norfolk Street, construction work led to lead levels as high as 110,000 micrograms per square foot, well above city health code limits of 40 micrograms. In December of 2014, those lead levels prompted tenants of the Rivington and Norfolk Street apartments to rally in the streets. At the time, an organizer at Cooper Square Committee reported that 14 months of construction had caused obstructed hallways, collapsed ceilings, blankets of dust, noise at all hours, and water shut-offs.
A tenant of 210 Rivington told Bedford + Bowery that water and heat had been shut off some 40 times during the winter of 2015. He described “tenant relocation services” that “target the elderly and people who don’t speak English.”
As part of the settlement, Mahfar’s companies will have to pay $50,000 in penalties, fees and costs to the State, and will have to hire an independent management company. The $175,000 paid to the HPD will go toward new lead analysis equipment.
“After years of harassing, cheating, and intimidating hard-working tenant families, the Mahfars will finally be held accountable,” Council Member Margaret S. Chin said in a statement. State Senator Daniel Squadron said the settlement “affirms that tenant harassment, poor housing conditions, and bad construction practices have no place in New York.”