Video: Tenants take worst landlord in NYC to court for over 700 violations

BRONX, NY (WPIX)—Wheels of justice don't just turn slowly, they are turning turn backwards for the hundreds of tenants in three buildings owned by the New York City's biggest slumlord. To figure out how this goes on, PIX11 tracked him to the Bronx Housing Court to see first-hand how he gets away with it. Firstly, Eli Abbott doesn't actually show up. He sends his attorney, who knows very well how to game the system.

Minarda Pimental's been going to court for months to fix safety issues in her apartment that are years' old. "The cockroaches. The mice. The ceiling falling down. The toilet not working," she listed off the reasons she's taken landlord Eli Abbott to court. Today, she almost got justice. During a trial, a judge ordered that everything be truly fixed, not just painted over, in the next two days. Then the attorney, Brett Landsman, pulled out his trump card: he informed the judge that the tenants were asking for a court appointed Administrator to take over the three buildings with more than 700 violations so their rent money would go to fix the issues. The judge had to throw up his hands and inform Ms. Pimental her fixes couldn't happen until after the next court hearing.

"All he wants is the money. He's a liar. He says he fixes things, but he doesn't," said Pimental as she showed off pictures of how rats managed to eat through the seal on her refrigerator to get to the food inside. That's a first for this reporter--super rats adept at opening a fridge to get their next meal.

Pimental was in good company. Her neighbors took us on tours of their apartments... Mohammad's shower filled with mold, the dead mouse under the kitchen sink which was crawling with roaches. Grace's kitchen with the wires hanging out of the wall and water damage everywhere. Disgusting living conditions inside units where tenants pay $1300 a month for a one bedroom--but this isn't just your average slum lord run building--these are three run by what New York city says is the worst slumlord in New York.

Susanna Blankley of CASA, Community Action for Safe Apartments, has helped the hundreds of tenants here organize to hold the landlord accountable, with very little success so far. "Tenants wrote a letter to him asking for a meeting a year ago, his response was very defensive, sarcastic. He blamed all the problems on the tenants," said Blankley.

Attorney Brett Landsman, who spent hours today defending Abbott on various cases, ran faster than the cockroaches tenants say occupy their appartments trying to avoid reporters questions. "He's a fantastic landlord," said Landsman with a smirk on his face when confronted with the 700-plus violations racked up by Abbott. "It's simply not true," was the only answer he could muster when confronted with the charge by New York City.

Fed up, these tenants are now taking their landlord to court tomorrow to get the city to appoint an outside Administrator to collect rent and finally fix violations with the money.

Meanwhile, Abbott has the buildings on the market, asking price: roughly five million dollars.