Category: Your Tax Dollars At Work

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?

 

 

Another Reason to Close the Tax Sale Loophole: 1928 Ramsay Street

Property Address: 1928 Ramsay Street, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner: Mondrea D Jacobs, 3626 Pear Tree Court, Apt. 42, Silver Spring, MD 20906

Property tax lien was purchased by ETS Maryland, who then filed for foreclosure in 2010. Deed/ownership information was never changed, due to the ability of tax lien purchasers to walk away from their obligation to maintain or refurbish the property.

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

State Senator: Catherine E Pugh

State Delegates: Frank M. Conaway, Antonio L. Hayes. Barbara A. Robinson

1928 Ramsay Street
1928 Ramsay Street

 

 

City-Owned Blight: 1918 Ramsay Street

Property Address: 1918 Ramsay 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 E Pugh

State Delegates: Frank M. Conaway, Antonio L. Hayes. Barbara A. Robinson

1918 Ramsay Street
1918 Ramsay Street

City-Owned Blight: 1900 Ramsay Street

Property Address: 1900 Ramsay 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 E Pugh

State Delegates: Frank M. Conaway, Antonio L. Hayes. Barbara A. Robinson

1900 Ramsay Street
1900 Ramsay Street

A Duo of Blight: 3210 and 3208 Elgin Avenue

Property Address: 3210 and 3208 Elgin Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216

Property Owner (3210): Dexter and Trevor O’Neil, 12005 Marleigh Drive, Bowie, MD 20720

Property Owner (3208): Mayor and City Council, 417 E Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

City Council District and Contact:  District 7, Nick Mosby

State Senator:  Lisa Gladden

State Delegates:  Jill Carter, Nathaniel Oaks, Samuel Rosenberg

These two homes illustrate a common dilemma with Vacants to Value properties. Because so many homes in Baltimore are connected, either as rowhomes or duplexes (as the properties below), if the city is able to obtain one property (3208), it’s difficult to sell when the adjoining property is a blighted mess, as 3210 is. There are no current permits available for 3210, the last one expired in October of 2015.

3210 and 3208 Elgin Avenue
3210 and 3208 Elgin Avenue

City-Owned Blight: 716 E 43rd Street

Property Address: 716 E 43rd Street, Baltimore, MD 21212

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

City Council District and Contact:  District 4, Bill Henry

State Senator:  Joan Carter Conway

State Delegates:  Curtis AndersonMary WashingtonMaggie McIntosh

716 E 43rd Street
716 E 43rd Street

1223 Argyle Avenue

This is a curious old building, tucked away in a residential neighborhood that’s home to some blighted blocks, an apartment complex, and a new-ish suburban-looking subdivision.

On further research, it turns out that this property might be the oldest school building in Baltimore City, built in 1858. A shame that once again, the city has allowed a piece of Baltimore history to rot away.

Property Address: 1223 Argyle Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217

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

1223 Argyle Avenue
1223 Argyle Avenue
1223 Argyle Avenue, rear
1223 Argyle Avenue, rear

The original building received an addition in 1882, which was found somewhat unsatisfactory when reported in the “Reports of the City Officers and Departments”:

The addition, made to No. 18 Primary School, on Argyle avenue near Lanvale street, is now occupied by the school, and supplies accommodations which have long been needed. In the Male Department, though, the lighting has been seriously impaired by the addition. This could have been avoided by putting the stairway at the north end of the building instead of putting it between the old and new portions. Now, it is necessary to improve the light in the rooms of the old building, which are adjacent to the addition.”

1207, 1209, 1211 W Fayette Street

Property Address: 1207, 1209, 1211 W Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21223

Property Owner (1207): Kathy Webb, same address

Property Owner (1209): Prayer Mission Church of God in Christ, Inc., 709 Wicklow Road, Baltimore, MD 21229 (Corporation is not in good standing.) (See history note below.)

Resident Agent for Prayer Mission Church of God in Christ: Lorenza Thigpen, same address

Property Owner (1211): Mayor and City Council, 417 E Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

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

State Senator (District 40): Catherine E. Pugh

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

1207, 1209, and 1211 W Fayette Street
1207, 1209, and 1211 W Fayette Street

History Note: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 1209 W Fayette was the home and office of Dr. JD Norris, an 1878 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He also worked for the Baltimore City Health Department and was a member of the Maryland National Guard.

City-Owned Blight: 810, 812, 814 N Mount Street

Property Address: 810, 812, and 814 N Mount Street, Baltimore, MD 21217

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: Shirley Nathan-Pulliam

State Delegate:  Keith Haynes

810, 812, 814 N Mount Street
810, 812, 814 N Mount Street