Buyouts have long been part of the city’s real estate lore, complete with only-in-New York stories of tenants who made millions relinquishing apartments they did not own. But as offers have become more common at the lower end of the ravenous housing market, buyouts have become instruments of illegal harassment and a growing threat to the stock of affordable housing, tenant groups and housing officials said.
In fast-changing neighborhoods, like Chinatown and East Harlem in Manhattan and the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, offers are often anything but amicable and rarely are generous enough to help tenants settle elsewhere in the city, they said.
Richard R. White, who leads the state’s Tenant Protection Unit, said some landlords failed to make repairs, declined to cash rent checks or threatened illegal evictions “to force tenants to accept what are often unconscionably meager buyouts.”
Helen Rosenthal, a councilwoman from the Upper West Side of Manhattan who is sponsoring a bill to allow tenants to collect compensatory and punitive damages from landlords for harassment, said landlords’ motive for pushing out tenants was obvious. “They can make a killing in the market,” she said.