Daniel Goldstein, managing partner of E&M Management, the owners of local residential properties like 217-unit Sunset Garden, said his company has been painted in an inaccurate and unfavorable light by some residents and Town of Ulster officials.
“I know me, per se, not just our team,” said Goldstein in an interview. “We’re the type of landlords that care very, very much.”
E&M Management purchased Sunset Garden at 45 Birch Street and Lakeshore Villas, a 151-unit property in Port Ewen, from Morgan Communities in March of this year for $44 million, expanding a local portfolio which also includes Kingston Waterfront and 30 Black Creek Road in Highland. According to its website, most of their other properties are in Nassau County and Far Rockaway, a Queens neighborhood not far from their headquarters in Lawrence.
Residents from some of those properties, including Sunset Garden, met at the Russell Brott Senior Center last month, a gathering attended by municipal leaders and local legislators. They described a property falling into disrepair and a property owner unwilling to do anything about it. They said tenants were not having their leases renewed to put them in a more precarious position of being subject to eviction on a whim as retaliation for speaking up, and at least two tenants said that was exactly what had happened to both of them. They said intimidation was used as means to an end, the dismissal of residents who might be home during the day, older tenants, and those who challenged E&M with the hopes of replacing them with potentially deep-pocketed millennials.
Goldstein and Yitzhak “Yitz” Horowitz, E&M’s director of property management, said the claims against them are categorically untrue, and say both their behavior and paperwork prove it.
“When we first took over the building, of course the building was [in] neglect,” said Goldstein. “The first thing that we did is, we installed smoke detectors in the hallways, with emergency lighting, we changed all the lighting to LED lighting, and we started painting the hallways. That was over $100,000 right there. We’re still not done with the hallways, we’re painting them. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of buildings, and to do that kind of work it’s a big undertaking.”
Goldstein described other work E&M has undertaken at Sunset Garden, including replacing sewer mains in three buildings (between $35,000-40,000 for each), the replacement of numerous terraces with rotten wood ($30,000), apartment renovations (over $150,000), fixing concrete in exterior stairways ($25,000), and pool repairs ($30,000).
“Then we went ahead and we installed a playground,” said Goldstein, which he said came with a $120,000 price tag and was the result of an informal survey of tenants during a community barbecue in the spring. Goldstein added that the playground will not be complete until the spring, because while the structure has already been installed, work to complete the safety foam surfacing surrounding the playground cannot be undertaken until the threat of snowfall has passed.
“And I can promise you this, you can go to any county, any town, any village, any city, you won’t find any municipal park as nice as hours,” said Horowitz. “The school district should bus their kids in to play on our playground. That’s how nice it is. I’m not kidding. If I had this park in my backyard as a child, it’s like a dream come true.”
Goldstein said that the claim that most tenants have not been offered new leases is inaccurate, adding that it wouldn’t make financial sense as a property owner to lose tenants.
“We need to pay the mortgage,” he said. “Because if we can’t pay the mortgage then we can just go to bankruptcy. We need the tenants, we want them to be happy, we don’t want the turnover. Why in the world would we want to go there and upset the wheel? That is not our intention.”
Horowitz also disputed claims that he opposed the idea of a tenants’ association, saying that he’d attended their first meeting, but that he hadn’t been invited back, something he said may be contributing to the perceived disconnect between tenants and management.
“It’s unfortunate, because the whole idea of a tenants’ association is that you do want to get things done, and you do want solutions, and you do want answers,” he said. “I don’t understand what else is the reason for it.”
There was also a claim by tenants that E&M has been arbitrarily charging tenants water and sewer fees without having the means to determine usage. Horowitz said that tenants were being billed for water and sewer by Morgan Communities before E&M bought the property, and that the practice is encouraged by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to give consumers a sense of the impact their choices have. Furthermore, Goldstein added, E&M isn’t coming up with the figures they charge tenants, it’s done by American Utility Management, an Illinois-based company that coordinates billing for multifamily properties.
“They have sensors on each riser that goes to the apartments, and they measure somehow the water,” said Goldstein. “We don’t do it. They bill us for each tenant, we pay the master bill and then we bill the tenant. They show us what they charge. We have no way of doing it. This is an outside company that does it for everyone.”
But it’s not just tenants who are seeing issues at Sunset Garden, it’s also Town of Ulster Building Inspector Kathryn Moniz, who said she spends one day each week dealing with problems on the property.
“I have matters of infestation, both rats and roaches,” said Moniz last month. “I have floors that are lifting. We’ve had sewer backups that were not taken care of like they’re supposed to be, which led to an issue of sanitation. We have handrails in common halls that serve no purpose because one is attached at the top but not at the return. I have big, gaping holes in the hallways that I’ve asked to be fixed because it’s a fire issue. They’ve taken out a laundry facility, and now I think there’s one for the whole complex. We have lighting issues.”
E&M acknowledges that some of the issues raised by Moniz are true, but they added that they’re problems the company inherited due to a poor maintenance record by the previous owner and that they’re still trying to work their way through them.
“And it’s going to take time, of course, to bring it back up to where it should be,” said Goldstein. “Obviously it can’t happen overnight. But one thing I can tell you is that by the spring most of these issues are going to be fixed. Because it takes about a year once you take over to do all the repairs.”
E&M said tenants may still be getting used to how they maintain a property, preferring to have an on-site superintendent rather than an office that’s only open during regular business hours. They added that the super, Richard Thompson, is a licensed plumber who can deal with numerous issues that might arise, narrowing the response time because they don’t always have to seek assistance from elsewhere.
Goldstein said that there’s a reason people are wary of landlords, though that necessarily doesn’t mean all landlords are bad.
“There are a lot of landlords out there that are not good, that give a bad name to landlords,” he said. “And I personally don’t like them myself, and I don’t want to even be associated with those people. Yet on the other hand, we are not those kind of people. We care in everything that we do. We are large landlords, yes we are. But we care. But obviously there’s always going to be some complaints somewhere, especially when we’re the size of landlords that we are, of certain tenants.”
Horowitz said that the impression people may be getting of E&M from disgruntled tenants is incorrect.
“We’re all about transparency, we’re all about just, you know, getting the truth out and working together with everyone,” he said. “That’s all we’re trying to do.”