Greed Bites the Hand That Steals for It
Intro by George Capsis
The hand-cuffed arrest and subsequent arraignment in Criminal Court of activist attorney Arthur and the false anonymous call to the health department that raw sewerage was contaminating the kitchen of Nelly’s restaurant, Lima’s Taste are just two of many actions taken by two different West Village landlords. These landlords use city regulations and false—but expensive to defend—legal and regulatory actions to push out low income tenants so they can enjoy the effulgent largess of exploding Village and City rents.
Shakespeare, cataloging the reasons to end it all in Hamlet’s soliloquy, cites “the law’s delay” and today we can add the cost of justice as a reason (to paraphrase the bard) to make our quietus with a bare bodkin (or commit hari-kari).
Imagine the shock of desperation and despair when Carol Yost, in her seventies, opens a very official envelope instructing her that she is evicted as of March 5 after decades in her Village apartment. (Arthur saved her.)
Or take a young African American attorney living in a Steve Croman brownstone that puts out flowering planters and tends them only to see landlord Croman sitting in the back of a limo watching as his men rip out the plants to make him hesitate to represent the harassed tenants.
We have a tendency to blacken villains to serve our prejudice, but the more incidents I hear about these landlords who have made the Ten Worst Landlords in New York list, the more I realize that the unquestioning embrace of greed wipes out any vestige of morality.
And that goes for paying your lawyers…
Here is an account of how landlord Steve Croman attempts to stiff the lawyers who have been doing his dirty work for seventeen years.
Former Attorneys Take Croman to Court: The Game of Tactics
By Tres Kelvin
Landlord Steve Croman is notorious for somehow getting sweetheart treatment from governmental entities—from the Department of Buildings to the Environmental Control Board to DHCR, all the way to the wrist slapping Politicians.
His favorite Pit Bull is the law firm of Rose & Rose. After over seventeen years of legal services, Rose it seems is no longer needed. Could it be the impotence of every major “enforcing” entity (HPD, ECB, etc.) doing Rose’s job for Croman? Or did his own dog just turn on him?
Rose was the law firm executing thousands of lawsuits on Croman’s behalf, suing real New Yorkers from over one-hundred buildings for the last seventeen years.
In these cases, even if the Tenant wins, the Tenant has spent so much time and money that the battle was not worth winning.
And it’s all legal.
Each tenant removed (otherwise known as “cleared”) brings in tons of cash. The only the cost would be: buying out the tenant (so low and so repeated that Bill “Int. No.757” was introduced to stop the Harassment); renovating the apartment (renovation defined as sending dust and noise towards Rent Regulated Tenants, with or without permits.), and the cost of litigation (now $725,000 cheaper).
However, Croman figured that it was time for the proverbial, new wife and stopped paying the firm in 2013. Rose, deciding to cut their losses, sued for $725,000 in unpaid fees. Croman, in turn, claims that Rose was overbilling but somehow it took Croman seventeen years to catch on.
That’s right—in New York’s Supreme Court, Croman is going to try to get Judge Cynthia Kern to believe that after years of “making” money, it took until now to uncover this ingenious scheme—which he had no idea was going on…for seventeen years.
Croman, in turn, countersued for “fraudulent billing, and punitive damages in an amount no less than $5 million given the severity of The Rose Firm’s intentional wrongdoing.” (According to the NYSCEF Doc. No. 124, p. 98.)
With Rose and Croman choking each other, Judge Kern stepped in and recently issued a decision which strengthened Rose’s grip. J. Kern decided that four out of five of Rose’s Causes of Action (fingers) may remain around Croman’s “neck.” The remaining Causes of Action are: A reasonable invoice unpaid, a Breach of Contract, No value given for work performed and a legal promise broken.
On June 8th, 2015: Croman filed a Counterclaim. The claim is based around the accusation that he was overbilled (breach of [the Attorney’s] duty, Fraud, Unjust Enrichment, etc.). Croman is asking for $5 million dollars.
However, it doesn’t sound too convincing. In his Statement of facts, Croman states that […] as a result of a “cursory” review of The Rose Firm’s bills…” He requested an explanation for what “appeared” to be inflated rates for costs and disbursements”. “Cursory” and “appeared to be”?
Was it mentioned that these “inflated rates” slipped by Croman? Some of them slipped right on into many monthly rent Bills sent to the Tenants…for seventeen yea— Oh, never mind.
Yes, it will be a tough sell for him to claim he was damaged, let alone that those damages add up to $5 million dollars.
With Rose’s help, Croman was able to borrow more money from the “cleared” buildings equity. However, instead of paying all of his (legal) bills and violations or all the repairs and maintenance—Croman simply bought more buildings. And nobody is stopping him.
There are very few signs that the entities that issue violations (DOB, ECB, DOT, etc.) will ever start to enforce them as they do against the average real New Yorker. However, the NYS Attorney General (Schniederman) declared that he is now investigating Croman. With baited breath, we are waiting to see whether Judge Kern or Schniederman (and now) Rose & Rose can stop the cancerous Donald-Trump-type growth called Steve Croman.