The Public Advocate identified and ranked the City’s 100 worst landlords based on public data compiled by various City agencies. Public Advocate Letitia James annually published “The 100 Worst Landlords in New York City,” or the “Watchlist.” James identified and ranked landlords based primarily on the total number of open violations each landlord received from the Department of Buildings and Housing Preservation and Development.
Kamran Hakim, owner of two residential buildings in Manhattan, appeared on the Watchlist for 2015 and 2016. Hakim challenged James’ action, asserting that she abused her powers as Public Advocate and harmed the landlords.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Carol Robinson Edmead found that James acted within the scope of the Public Advocate’s powers, and dismissed Hakim’s complaint. Hakim appealed.
The Appellate Division, First Department, reaffirmed that James had acted properly under the Charter, and upheld the dismissal of Hakim’s complaint.
Section 24(f) of the Charter provides that the Public Advocate is entitled to exercise oversight powers to monitor the City’s public information and to function as a facilitator of governmental data compiled by the City agencies. The Appellate Division reasoned that, by publishing the Watchlist, James discharged a duty derived from the Charter. The Watchlist was designed to enhance the public’s accessibility to the data compiled by the City agencies that enforce the laws intended to protect the rights and safety of tenants. James communicated her opinion based on publicly-available law enforcement data. James also fully disclosed the underlying facts and how her ranking algorithm factored them in.
(CIT) Hakim v. James, 94 N.Y.S.3d 14 (A.D. 1 Dept. 2019).
By: Young Kim (Young is a New York Law School student, Class of 2020).