One of the worst landlords in New York City is a man named Ved Parkash, who owns buildings that house nearly 1,500 families in the Bronx. According to a new list that reveals the city’s worst evictors, Parkash has evicted 66 families in 2018 alone–along with neglecting his tenants’ needs so much that one person nearly died from a disease spread through rat urine.
It might be easy to imagine that landlords like Parkash are a one-off problem, or place blame for evictions on the people who are kicked out of their homes, a stunning map of New York’s 18,007 evictions in 2018 paints a very different picture.
“It’s not just showing the eviction crisis but also showing how it’s a business tactic–it’s a strategy for landlords,” says Manon Vergerio, a member of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, which worked on the project.
Evicting people has become a go-to way for landlords hoping to push out tenants who live in rent stabilized apartments and pay below market-rate rent–something that’s caused a crisis in cities across the country. To force people out, landlords like Parkash–who sued 1,813 families between 2013 and 2015–take low-income tenants to housing court, where many can’t afford a lawyer to defend them. As the NYC Worst Evictors website explains, sometimes these cases are bogus and serve simply to wear down the resolve of tenants so that they move and a landlord can find a new, higher-paying tenant. As a result, high rates of eviction often go hand-in-hand with gentrification. Even a quick glance at the map reveals that the neighborhoods of New York that are going through gentrification and displacement are also the areas where the most evictions occur.
The map and corresponding list is a collaboration between her group of volunteers as well as multiple other organizations, including the activist group Right to Counsel NYC Coalition and tech nonprofit Just Fix. The map shows the concentration of evictions across the entire city, combined with an interactive sidebar that reveals the landlords who most frequently evict tenants. The idea is to show the systemic issue of eviction, rather than placing blame on tenants. “We want to shift the narrative from evictions as an individual problem that’s the fault of the tenant to a citywide crisis,” Vergerio says. “That’s where the map comes in handy.”
Many of the landlords’ identities are listed as unknown, for two reasons: One, buildings with only a few units don’t need to register with the city, and two, many buildings simply aren’t legally registered. Across the board, the biggest evictor is the New York City Housing Authority–which Vergerio says surprised her. “I think it is quite devastating that there are so many evictions in public housing,” she says. “You’d think that’s a place where people are safe and not being pushed out.”
While the map is an effective way to communicate the breadth of the eviction crisis, it lacks the human stories that illuminate its impact. As a result, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is now starting an oral history project, where it will feature interviews with people who’ve been evicted and people who are organizing against eviction on their website.
In 2017, New York City passed a law that gives tenants the right to an attorney in housing court, a change that’s being slowly rolled out across different neighborhoods. A recent study found that in zip codes where people have access to legal counsel, eviction rates declined five times faster than in zip codes where they don’t. By revealing the shadiest landlords operating in areas where tenants already legally have right to counsel, the Right to Counsel Worst Evictors List is meant to galvanize tenants and encourage them to stand up to the corporate interests trying to take their homes from them.
“If we can galvanize each other to organize around evictions, we can be a powerful collective force,” Vergerio says. “That’s what we’re hoping to do.”