Baltimore’s Worst Slumlord Speculators

Many cities, including San Francisco and New York have come up with lists of the worst landlords or property investors over the years, and the advocacy groups have gone after them in a big way. In Baltimore…not so much. The Community Law Center sued a slumlord once, but that’s been about the extent of the public consequences for Baltimore’s various property investors who have left properties to decay — some of them for decades.

The Top Five

Stanley Rochkind and Bud Runkles (tied, since they work together under various LLC shell companies.)
Between the lead paint lawsuits, vacant derelict properties, and a complete refusal to acknowledge their misdeeds, these two take the cake, especially Mr. Rochkind, who’s been in the slumlording business since at least the early 1980s.

John Reiff, along with his partners Anthony Delaurentis, and John Reid.
Mr. Reiff is the largest individual purchaser of homes at City tax sales (as of 2016), was disbarred for a time (along with Mr. Delaurentis and Mr. Reid) for bid-rigging at municipal auctions in Baltimore, and continues to purchase more vacant homes, despite owning dozens across the city. In fact, these three are the reason why Baltimore City needs to close its tax sale loophole and ban them from future auctions.

Scott Wizig
Mr. Wizig, even after being sued by the Community Law Center for his blight, is still the owner of multiple blighted vacants in Baltimore. He came to Baltimore after being tossed out of New York by the Attorney General there — perhaps that should have been a warning to Baltimore’s government that he was bad news.

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City
Yes, even the city can be a slumlord. Because of the number of blighted vacant homes, and most importantly — because of our city government’s refusal to enact anti-slumlord policies, they’ve easily earned a place on this list. Another reason for putting them on this list — allowing Paul Graziano, our former housing commissioner, to stay in his job for far too long (or perhaps for hiring him in the first place.)

Housing Authority of Baltimore City
Speaking of Paul Graziano, the Housing Authority isn’t immune from the “slumlord” tag, either, considering the number of blighted homes owned by HABC, the number of children who have been poisoned by lead paint while living in HABC-owned homes, and the housing authority’s refusal to pay its lead paint settlements. Not to mention the condition of our city’s low-income housing projects, the fact that women were sexually assaulted by maintenance men while living in public housing – the list just goes on and on.

Dishonorable Mention

City Homes
You wouldn’t think that an affordable housing nonprofit would be stoop to being a slumlord. However, given the number of lead paint poisoning lawsuits that were filed against their various entities, their subsequent bankruptcy filing (can’t pay settlements if you’re “broke”!), and continue to be filed (as recently as last week) — they need to be on the list. Poisoning children with lead paint is probably the easiest way to be classified as a slumlord. Renter beware.

Baltimore Churches
There’s something particularly troubling about churches that own blighted vacant property. The very idea that a nonprofit organization that doesn’t pay property taxes should also be allowed to further take resources from a community is mind-boggling. Of course not all churches in Baltimore act in this appalling manner, but quite a few do — to the detriment of the surrounding neighborhoods. WWJD, indeed?

 

 

House Collapse in West Baltimore

According to Oscar Jiminez from WBAL, a vacant house partially collapsed in the 1900 block of Edmondson Avenue this morning injuring two people and also sent debris into the sidewalk and onto the road. Thankfully nobody was killed, unlike this incident in March.

The house, 1925 Edmondson Avenue, was owned by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, and is part of the Vacants to Value program, touted by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as an “innovative” program that was supposed to “to get Baltimore’s vacant and abandoned properties cleaned up and redeveloped more quickly, more efficiently, and more economically”.

1923 Edmondson Avenue, on the right. Note the absence of a roof.
1921 and 1923 Edmondson Avenue. Note the absence of a roof on 1923. Both homes are City-owned. (Image from Google Street View)

While V2V may have seemed like a good idea, we maintain the program is not operating as intended, as many of the purchasers of V2V homes are speculators. In fact, one of the largest purchasers of V2V homes is someone we’ve written about several times — an attorney who was disbarred (and subsequently reinstated) for bid-rigging at Baltimore’s municipal auctions, both under his own name and his LLC, “Land Research Associates”.

 

City-Owned Block of Blight: 406, 408, 410, 412, 414 Park Avenue

This block has been vacant and falling apart for years. Baltimore Development Corporation appeared to understand the urgency in fixing at least two of the buildings in 2015, but it doesn’t look like anything was ever done. (See Westside Building Assessment for Park 414 and 412. Links open a PDF.) 406 Park Avenue was listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties. (Link opens a PDF)

Property Address: 406, 408, 410, 412, 414 Park Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201

Property Owner: Mayor and City Council, 417 E Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

City Council District and Contact: District 11, Eric T. Costello

State Senator (District 40): Catherine E. Pugh

State Delegates (District 40): Frank M. Conaway, Antonio L. Hayes. Barbara A. Robinson

406-414 Park Avenue
406-414 Park Avenue
400 Block Park Avenue, side. Note the deteriorating rear of the end building.
400 Block Park Avenue, side. Note the deteriorating rear of the end building.

According to Reader MS, who sent these photos, this block sits amid new development, and is rotting away.

 

City-Owned Blight: 1115 and 1117 W Lexington Street

Property Address: 1115 and 1117 W Lexington Street, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner: Mayor and City Council, 417 E Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

City Council District and Contact:  District 9, “Pistol” Pete Welch

State Senator:  Catherine Pugh

State Delegates:  Barbara Robinson, Frank Conaway, Jr., Antonio Hayes

1115 and 1117 W Lexington Street
1115 and 1117 W Lexington Street

A Blighted Block: 106, 108, 110, and 112 N Carrollton Avenue

Property Address: 106, 108, 110, and 112 N Carrollton Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner (108, 108, and 110): Mayor and City Council, 410 E Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

Property Owner (112): Rent Man, LTD., 408 S Monroe Street, Baltimore, MD 21223 (Company charter has been forfeited.)

Resident Agent for Rent Man, LTD.: Jeb Stuart Fries, 103 Central Avenue, Fredonia, NY 14063

Mr. Fries, who was convicted of armed robbery in 1989 and was subsequently denied a Maryland law license, has been sued multiple times for lead paint and housing code violations, since 1993. The city has also filed multiple foreclosure and receiver  lawsuits against his various properties, including 112 N Carrollton Street in May of this year.

City Council District and Contact:  District 9, “Pistol” Pete Welch

State Senator:  Catherine Pugh

State Delegates:  Barbara Robinson, Frank Conaway, Jr., Antonio Hayes

106, 108, 110, 112 N Carrollton Avenue
106, 108, 110, 112 N Carrollton Avenue

City Owned Trio of Blight: 115, 117, and 119 N Carrollton Avenue

Property Address: 115, 117, 119 N Carrollton Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner: Mayor and City Council, 417 E Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

City Council District and Contact:  District 9, “Pistol” Pete Welch

State Senator:  Catherine Pugh

State Delegates:  Barbara Robinson, Frank Conaway, Jr., Antonio Hayes

115, 117, and 119 N Carrollton Avenue
115, 117, and 119 N Carrollton Avenue

105 N Carrollton Avenue

Property Address: 105 N Carrollton Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner: 400 Business Trust, 5616 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215 (A Stanley Rochkind-controlled entity)

Resident Agent for 400 Business Trust: Charles “Bud” Runkles, same address

City Council District and Contact:  District 9, “Pistol” Pete Welch

State Senator:  Catherine Pugh

State Delegates:  Barbara Robinson, Frank Conaway, Jr., Antonio Hayes

105 N Carrollton Avenue
105 N Carrollton Avenue

 

1931 W Mulberry Street

Another blighted Baltimore vacant that passed through the hands of prolific slumlord and lead paint violator, Stanley Rochkind.

Property Address: 1931 W Mulberry Street, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner: Lamont Lovejoy, 2829 Merrick Road, Bellmore, NY 11710

City Council District and Contact:  District 9, “Pistol” Pete Welch

State Senator: Shirley Nathan-Pulliam

State Delegate:  Keith Haynes

1931 W Mulberry Street
1931 W Mulberry Street

 

2100 Penrose Avenue

This is the second property included in the Morwin Properties/UP8 Business trust foreclosure debacle, read the original post here.

Property Address: 2100 Penrose Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner: Morwin Properties, LLC, 901 Stamford Road, Baltimore, MD 21229 (Charter has been forfeited, company is not in good standing.)

Resident Agent for Morwin Properties, LLC: Keshawn Moore, same address

City Council District and Contact:  District 9, “Pistol” Pete Welch

State Senator: Shirley Nathan-Pulliam

State Delegate:  Keith Haynes

2100 Penrose Avenue
2100 Penrose Avenue

 

2139 W Fayette Street

Property Address: 2139 W Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner: UP8 Business Trust, 5616 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215 (A Stanley Rochkind-controlled entity)

Resident Agent for UP8 Business Trust: Jack Novograd, same address

City Council District and Contact:  District 9, “Pistol” Pete Welch

State Senator: Shirley Nathan-Pulliam

State Delegate:  Keith Haynes

2139 W Fayette Street
2139 W Fayette Street