After the death of two girls in the Bronx last week, the city comptroller is taking a closer look at landlords who operate homeless shelters known as cluster sites. Officials are focusing on the landlord who owned the building where the girls lost their lives. But despite the tragedy, the city is not committing to immediately removing families from the landlord's properties. NY1's Courtney Gross explains.
Two little girls lost their lives when their apartment's steam radiator exploded last week.
Their apartment was essentially a homeless shelter. It is called a cluster site, and it's owned by one of the most notorious landlords in the city: Moshe Piller.
Piller is just one of many landlords who own cluster site apartments, a program housing hundreds of homeless families in typically horrible conditions. The comptroller's office tells NY1 the most serious offenders are these landlords.
In Piller's case, the city moved out seven families from two buildings where the radiator incident occurred.
He still has other buildings throughout the Bronx. As of September, those units had 729 open violations.
It's an untenable situation, says the city comptroller Scott Stringer.
"There is no regard for what slumlords we are using," he said. "If there is an open apartment, they throw the child and the families into that open apartment. They don't screen for violations."
"There are many units that are a priority to be phasing out including his," said Steven Banks, commissioner of Human Resources Administration.
On Friday, the city's social services commissioner would not commit to getting families immediately out of Piller's apartments. The city has promised to shut down the cluster site program, but it will take years.
"We've announced that we are phasing it out we have already eliminated 450 of those units and we are going to keep doing that and prioritizing locations as we proceed," Banks said.
In the meantime, the landlords will rake in millions of dollars and operate under the radar.
In Piller's case, paperwork filed with the city for one of his buildings only listed a limited liability company or LLC, not his name.
The address listed for the company was a mailing center in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
According to the comptroller's office, Piller is listed as the head officer of 57 different buildings throughout New York City. They are all under 44 different company names.
After what happened in the Bronx, he is now also the subject of an investigation by the Bronx district attorney's office.