The number one ‘slumlord’ in Van Nest was placed in handcuffs.
According to reports, 39-year old Erik Clayton, the former landlord of 1663 Garfield Street, was arrested on Tuesday, June 14 for harassing tenants, neglecting maintenance and continuing to collect rent from tenants despite numerous building violations.
Clayton, who took over the six-unit building after purchasing the property in 2010, originally had intentions of correcting the building’s many pressing violations, including drug dealing, drug usage and inadequate building amenities desperately in need of repairs.
The building’s landlord received $245,000 in city loans for emergency repairs and renovations, including improvements to the building’s roof and stairways, along with other deficiencies in each unit, after the building had been in NYS Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Alternative Enforcement Program.
However, Clayton began to show up on the ‘slumlord’ radar after he allegedly failed to reimburse the city for its funding and many of the requested repairs weren’t completed.
“The situation was horrible here when (Clayton) was the landlord – nothing ever got done and the building suffered greatly,” said a resident who wished to remain anonymous to avoid further conflict with Clayton.
“(Councilman) Ritchie Torres and HPD, have been awesome in assisting us and turning this situation around,” he said.
The resident claims her toe was broken when a previously reported dangereous kitchen wall cabinet fell apart and landed on her foot.
The tenants said Clayton would text tenants for his rent check but would never respond to their requests for repairs.
“Many of the residents in this building come from the shelter system and don’t ever want to go back – and Clayton used this as leverage to treat us however he wanted to,” a tenant charged.
In 2014, Councilman Ritchie Torres, who had been on the landlord’s case even before he was elected to city council that year, ordered an HPD-led public inspection of the building after tenants complained that Clayton was harassing them for his monthly rent payments.
Later that year, a court-appointed administrator was selected to run the building, following an Article 7A of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law action, which allows at least 33 percent of the building’s tenants or HPD to ask the court to appoint an administrator to run a building instead of its owner.
Undeterred, Clayton continued to collect rent from the building’s tenants, which led to his arrest.
“This building was in a league of its own in terms of building neglect and has caused as many problems, if not more, than any residential building in Van Nest,” said Torres. “It’s ironic, but also accurate, that (one of) the smallest buildings in this neighborhood presented (one of) the community’s biggest problems. The arrest brings this man to justice but also sets an example for other landlords and building owners around the city that there will be consequences for these types of actions.”
Clayton was sentenced to repaying $12,000 to the court-appointed administrator for collecting rent under a false pretense or serve 60 days in the slammer.
Clayton, who turned himself in after an arrest warrant was issued, is currently being held at the NYC Department of Corrections’ Manhattan Detention Complex, according to HPD.