In the world of New York housing, where landlord-tenant battles are both routine and brutal, Joel Wiener has plenty of scars.
One of the city’s top 10 rental apartment owners, Wiener’s been sued for overcharges and shoddy repairs, and denounced by politicians for making housing too expensive for the working class.
None of it, though, has slowed his rise. From a disclosed net worth of $124 million in 2001, the 68-year-old Wiener today has a fortune of $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s benefited from soaring property values as gentrification spreads to one city neighborhood after another.
His Pinnacle Group manages about $2 billion worth of property—some 10,000 units, almost all rent-regulated, in every New York borough save Staten Island. The firm has also made millions converting about 25 buildings to condominiums.
Through his lawyer, Ken Fisher, Wiener declined to comment on his net worth.
Kim Powell, who co-founded an anti-Wiener group called Buyers and Renters United to Save Harlem in 2005, says his wealth has come at the expense of tenants.
Powell and other critics say landlords like Wiener are helping to accelerate the demise of affordable housing by snapping up buildings in once undesirable neighborhoods and driving out existing tenants with high rents. Gentrification was a major issue in the recent campaign that saw Mayor Bill de Blasio elected to a second term. He’s pledged to build 300,000 affordable units by 2026.
“The harassment comes dressed up in a pinstripe suit,” Powell said. “This is a family empire that’s mushroomed into a billion-dollar estate.”