Updated: When Wall Street uses Google for evil

Well, now that the investor-landlord meme I wrote about last week has finally caught on, the Village Voice and the Times note a brilliantly evil use of “the Google ” by these new owners, They find someone with a similar name somewhere else, and claim that the rent-stabilized apartment is not a tenant’s primary residence.

The Oliveiras ultimately got their lease. But McCreanor, the housing attorney, has filed a lawsuit that is filled with similar instances of apparently over-eager accusations. One plaintiff is Nelis Fuentes, 75, who has lived in the 88th Street building for 21 years. Vantage has told her that it knows her real residence is in Miami, where another man with her ex-husband’s name—Jose Fuentes—lives.

“How many Jose Fuentes are there in the country?” asked [attorney] McCreanor. His lawsuit claims that such deceptive practices have become a Vantage trademark and should be barred under consumer-protection statutes.

All the media attention appears to have gotten the City Council’s attention, at least. Queens’ Eric Gioia has done the math, and concluded the obvious:

Gioia has pledged to hold hearings on the impact of the new investment firms on the affordable-housing stock.”When I look at their business plan and I see it is predicated on a 20 percent turnover, the only way you can do that is to have an orchestrated plan to force people out,” said Gioia. “There’s no other way to figure it.”

From my little corner of reporting, I’d advise he look not just into Vantage but Townhouse Management, GFI, and Cardinal Investments. Then Gioia can be the one asking the question I asked last time, about banks that lend money expecting evictions.

Update, 5/26: It’s not just investors that do it, but owners who court them the hardest. The Times just learned that Tishman-Speyer has been playing this game too:

In 2007, Tishman Speyer accused Dolores J. Shapiro, 62, an anthropologist and retired professor of nursing, of actually living in Naperville, Ill. Ms. Shapiro says she has never been to Naperville. She hired a lawyer, James B. Fishman, who discovered in an Internet search that a woman with the same name but a different middle initial — Dolores M. Shapiro — appeared to reside at the Naperville address.

The relevant sentence to my core question: “A financing document for Tishman Speyer’s purchase states that the company expects to have converted about 57 percent — 6,397 — of the two complexes’ units to market-rate rents by January 2011.” Part of that estimate, they admitted, was betting that elderly tenants would die, but I guess they figured a little Googling never hurt. Again, how can the credit offered under such “financing statements” be anything but dirty money?

Meanwhile, the folks at Google still get to contemplate what “Don’t be evil” really means.

Published by chrislombardi

Journalist, novelist, educator.

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