City Ups Ante Against Problem Landlord

Thomas Breen photoThe city’s going after a Great Neck, N.Y. landlord — to the tune of $50,000 — for a mess he allegedly has created on Grand Avenue.

On Aug. 24, Serena Neal-Sanjurjo, the director of the city’s anti-blight Livable City Initiative (LCI), signed off on a lien on the vacant commercial building at 873-887 Grand Ave. The building is owned by Great Neck, N.Y.-based landlord Edward Roubeni through his holding company, Achtov, LLC.

According to city land records, the lien document states that Roubeni owes $50,100 in unpaid fines due to his year-and-a-half-long alleged violation of the city’s anti-blight and property maintenance ordinance.

Roubeni, in turn, has filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that city anti-blight officials have acted with “unclean hands” in their alleged selective enforcement of anti-blight fines against him.

“The fines were assessed beginning on April 3, 2017,” the lien reads, “and reflect an amount of $100 per day for the five hundred one (501) day period from April 3, 2017 through August 16, 2018, during which time the violation of the Anti-Blight Ordinance continued.”

Land records show that LCI filed a separate lien on the property back on June 12. That earlier lien is for the $471.60 that the city spent inspecting, repairing, and cleaning up the derelict Grand Avenue property on May 18.

“The City of New Haven hereby gives notice of intention to claim and continue a lien for the Expenses against the Property and the proceeds of any policy providing insurance coverage issued by an insurance company,” both liens read.

Roubeni did not respond to requests for comment by the publication time of this article.

However, Roubeni has made clear his thoughts on the city’s anti-blight enforcement through two separate lawsuits related to the Grand Avenue property that are currently working their way through state Superior Court.

Roubeni has also been engaged in a longstanding dispute with LCI over his failure to keep up a derelict property he owns in Westville at 781 Whalley Ave. / 50 Fitch St.

On Nov. 30, 2017, Roubeni and the local law firm Jacobs & Rozich LLC filed a suit against the city, alleging that the city has selectively enforced its blight regulations in its fines on Roubeni for 873-887 Grand.

“Since purchasing the Property” in October 2013, the complaint reads, “ACHTOV, LLC has sought to invest into and development [sic.] the land. ACHTOV, LLC has been prevented from doing so pursuant to a concerted effort by the Defendants to stop it from a fruitful use of the Property.”

Roubeni and his lawyers demand $15,000 in damages in compensation for the city’s alleged picking on him through anti-blight fines and citations.

In response to Roubeni’s suit, the city filed its own lawsuit in state Superior Court against the out-of-town landlord.

In an April 9 complaint, city-contracted lawyer Alfred Zullo alleged that Roubeni owes over $18,000 in unpaid taxes on the Grand Avenue property. The city requested a foreclosure of the tax liens on the property and immediate possession of the liened premises.

In a July 3 disclosure of defense, Roubeni’s lawyer, Kenneth Rozich of Jacobs and Rozich, LLC, wrote that Roubeni plans to present a defense against the city’s charges in the city-initiated lawsuit.

“Specifically,” Rozich writes, “that the Plaintiff has denied said Defendant the use and benefit of the subject property through improper and arbitrary enforcement of building codes, zoning regulations and blight ordinances.

“Defendant has been prevented from developing the subject property while being taxed,” Rozich continues. “The Plaintiff has acted with unclean hands.”

The city-initiated lawsuit does not yet have any further hearings scheduled.

As for the Roubeni-initiated lawsuit, Superior Court Judge Denise Markle has set a March 20, 2019, trial date.

In response to Roubeni’s original complaint, Assistant City Corporation Counsel Roderick Williams filed a request to revise on Jan. 10, 2018. Williams requested that Roubeni and his lawyers cite a specific city statute that city anti-blight officials have allegedly violated.

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posted by: 1644 on September 11, 2018  10:11am

Nice doors.

posted by: GrandAveRes on September 11, 2018  4:30pm

It’s time for the property owners on Grand Ave to stop playing the victim and making excuses. The blight is now embarrassing and unreasonable. Don’t want a fine? Clean up.

People DO live on this street and it has been ignored for far too long. Not only do we deal with harassment, loitering and intoxication but dangerously awful street lighting, boarded up windows, garbage, glass bottles, plastic and cardboard litter shredded across the street and in lots. There is 1 garbage can on this street. The next is around the corner on Jefferson and is often overflowing. Residents should not have to take it upon themselves to pick up syringes, glass shards, fast food containers, etc. and bring them into their homes to dispose of. But we often have to unless we’re going to walk a block to a trash can.

Winter is coming™ and the sidewalks will once again be unwalkable, caked in layers of ice (and entombed garbage) from December to April because of the carelessness of property owners and tenants.

He should also be fined for not putting to good use such beautiful doors.

posted by: NHPLEB on September 13, 2018  4:20am

Real slumlords always get away with everything.  NH goes after the poor homeowner with one or two rental apartments.  The pickin’s are easier .

Oh,  but now we’re all concerned about Grand Ave.,  now that Yale wants to expand down the street.  Before , it could be a pit but now that’s all changing.