What follows is a letter from a concerned citizen and neighbor of one of the many properties Isaac Anzaroot owns and has been accused of neglecting. –Bridge eds.
June 26, 2021 Binghamton NY
I write as a concerned citizen about a large-scale problem with a local landlord, Isaac Anzaroot. I first became interested in this because I live down the street from two of his buildings (22 and 24 Clarke Street), which have both repeatedly caught on fire, slipped into blight, and been condemned over the last few years. As I write this, I can hear the hum of gas generators outside my house, which are being used by the tenants in 22 Clarke to keep cool during an impending heat wave after the city condemned the property and turned off the power this week
, following yet another electrical fire (this most recent electrical fire occurred in a garage apartment that I am…extremely sure was in no way code compliant). A cursory drive around some of Anzaroot’s properties, which I did today, suggests to me that a number of his other properties are not up to code (534 Chenango Street, for example). 95 Court Street, another Anzaroot property, was condemned by the city just last month
for fire and electrical violations, resulting in the eviction of the Broome County Arts Council.
Anzaroot has repeatedly promised the city he would provide public benefits from distressed properties, only to use these properties for personal gain without delivering on his development promises. In the case of the EJ Victory Building, he bought a property from the city at a steep discount only to resell it for great personal profit only a few years later
(without delivering on his development promises). In the case of the Masonic Temple, he suggested he would work with the city to provide various municipal or nonprofit office spaces, to the point where the City Council had a special meeting for “community feedback” on the proposals (which I attended). He is now trying to offload the Masonic Temple building: another project that seems to have “fallen through.” The city also seems to have given special approval for a student housing project at 92 Glenwood
in 2019: two years later, the building still appears vacant when examined from the street.
Finally, Anzaroot has been the subject of an alarming number of lawsuits in local and state court from a variety of contractors and other actors. A quick search for his name and some of the major LLCs he uses turns up no fewer than 16 court cases against him in Binghamton City Court and Broome County Supreme Court since just 2018. Obviously, large landlords occasionally get sued: it is part of the cost of doing business. But the pace of lawsuits, to me, points to a larger pattern of neglect, ripping off contractors, and general shady dealing. I have compiled a list of these lawsuits here
, drawing from publicly available court records. This pattern has culminated in Galaxy Brewing suing him
, just this week, for breach of contract.
I worry that county and city officials have not taken the threat Anzaroot poses to the area seriously. Some of this, I suspect, is that the scale of the problem has been concealed by his frequent use of shell LLCs, which prevent people from realizing that he/AJEM/Monaco/MEJA etc are part of the same property group. Someone on Reddit
has recently compiled a map
of his properties, suggesting that he owns 144 properties under *26 different LLCs,* mostly in blight-prone areas of the city like the North Side and the eastern edge of downtown. Also, Anzaroot’s business model–snapping up distressed properties to make a quick buck–has perhaps encouraged the city and county to look the other way, as there are few other good options for properties teetering on the edge of blight (if the alternative is leaving them empty or spending limited funds on demolition).
I am not a public policy person, or a lawyer, or anyone who knows anything about real estate, and so I don’t really know what paths of action are realistically within local government’s grasp. But I do know what is happening down the street in those Clarke properties is unacceptable, and the county and city governments need to take steps to make sure that Anzaroot provides acceptable living conditions, before someone dies in a fire or a collapse. These steps might take the form of the city adopting a more aggressive code stance against all
of his properties, the city and county thinking twice about further deals with him (is there a blacklist or its equivalent?), and local government bodies considering legal remedies of the sort that have been pursued by cities like Detroit against slumlords.
I know the idea of a rental registry has been floating around, as well, which may help.
A Reddit author posting as Mr. Binghamton has researched Anzaroot’s dealings:
I have spent a fair amount of time gaining a better understanding of the scope of Isaac Anzaroot’s web of real estate. Given his recent mentions in the news (Iconic Building Deemed Unfit for Habitation & Masonic Temple Redevelopment Project Underway) I feel obligated to share my findings. As these findings are admittedly incomplete and may contain errors, I invite further input as I continue this investigation.
The general observed consensus is that Anzaroot, a Brooklyn-based developer with a network of properties in the Greater Binghamton Area, is not well liked. Neighbors report he is not a good steward of his properties, many of which fall under AJEM Group LLC and Monaco Construction. Contractors have unfavorable business dealings with him. Former business partners have severed ties. Anzaroot has continued to evict tenants from his properties for non-payment despite the eviction moratorium. He is pervasive in his refusal to make repairs upon request or uphold any semblance of regular property maintenance. One can only imagine the conditions that his tenants have to live in.