Twin brothers with identical eye-popping salaries have been double-dipping off their nonprofit that provides housing to the city’s homeless — even as their clients suffered poor service and have been blindsided by eviction notices.
Mark and Solomon Lazar, the sons of Joseph Lazar, a former political ally of Mayor de Blasio, each make $240,000 a year as the top executives of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit LCG Community Services. But their big checks don’t end there.
The city has paid millions of dollars to LCG Community Services to place homeless families in temporary housing since 2012. The city also awarded LGC a four-year, $10.9 million contract in 2015 to run a Brooklyn shelter.
Mark and Solomon Lazar, in turn, use LCG to pay millions of dollars to a for-profit firm, Razzal Hospitality and Management — which they own.
Razzal manages many of the properties where LCG places homeless families.
In 2016, LCG paid Razzal $2.7 million to manage part of its cluster-site housing — a controversial city program that places homeless families in private apartment buildings, according to the nonprofit’s most recent federal tax filing.
LCG also paid $1.94 million to the Lazar brothers’ private firm in 2015 and $1.4 million in 2014, records show.
Meanwhile, LCG clients who live in cluster housing sites in the Bronx have complained in a lawsuit about bad conditions in their units, including roach infestations, leaky toilets and broken appliances.
Some have also griped that LCG case managers and specialists who assist in finding permanent housing didn’t meet with them on a regular basis.
Even worse, since August, at least 45 families living in Bronx cluster sites that LCG leases have faced eviction, according to a Legal Aid Society lawyer representing some of the families.
Many of those families have been scrambling to find permanent housing or face being uprooted to a new shelter.
“LCG is the epitome of a bad actor and they have no place in New York City providing social services to vulnerable New York families,” the lawyer, Lucy Newman, said.
The city’s Department of Homeless Services said the complaints from LCG clients and the evictions contributed to its recent decision to close all of the nonprofit’s cluster housing sites by June 30.
The agency informed LCG of its decision in February and wrote a formal letter to the nonprofit on April 2. LCG currently has 171 families in cluster units in 55 locations.
“Evictions by landlords of DHS families in LCG cluster units over the course of this year has continued to take families, DHS and even LCG by surprise,” DHS said in its letter. “This ongoing pattern remains troubling and highly concerning.”
The city plans to end its entire cluster site program by 2021.
The program has been heavily criticized as ineffective and costly. A 2015 report by the city Department of Investigation showed that the majority of cluster sites were riddled with serious health and safety violations.
At its height in 2016, the cluster housing program had 3,600 units citywide.
DHS said it has closed more than 1,500 units since that time. It also plans to convert another 800 units into permanent affordable housing.
The agency said it is working with LCG’s cluster apartment clients to find permanent housing and to transfer them to other shelters.
But some LCG clients who have gotten eviction notices said they don’t want to move because they’ve established roots in the neighborhood.
Diandra Oquendo and Josephine Ravenales filed a lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court in January saying that the units they occupy are rent-regulated and they are entitled to the tenant protections that come with the status.
The cluster units are leased in a complicated arrangement. The landlord, Sobro Sharp LLC, and its affiliates lease rent-regulated apartments to property management company Apex Asset Management LLC, which in turn sublets them to LCG.
LCG pays Apex more than the rent-regulated amount to lease the homes — or about $50 per day per unit.
The eviction proceedings in the past eight months were filed by the landlord, Sobro Sharp, against Apex. Many were filed because of rent arrears. However, LCG said it paid all of the rent on time — and in some instances overpaid.
Apex did not respond to a request for comment.
Oquendo and Ravenales name Sobro Sharp, Apex, LCG and DHS as the defendants in the suit.
A mother of three, Oquendo, 29, became homeless in fall 2015 and a few months in a shelter moved into an LCG cluster apartment in the South Bronx. She called the junior one-bedroom “disgusting.”
Her stove doesn’t work, and she has to pour a bucket of water down her toilet to flush it, she said.
Then there are the pests.
“I have the worst roach infestation known to mankind,” she said, noting that they crawl over her 7-month-old daughter’s crib.
Meanwhile, she said she has seen six different LCG case managers because of turnover at the nonprofit. She said that LCG’s housing specialist rarely met with her.
“These people have left me here to basically fend for myself,” she said.
Earlier this month, DHS informed her that Sobro was evicting her and she had two days to move, she said. Her lawyer got a temporary restraining order stopping a transfer to another shelter.
Oquendo wants to stay in the neighborhood because she has family there, her 7-year-old son goes to a nearby school nearby and she is enrolled full-time at Bronx Community College to become a nurse.
“They just want to uproot my entire family,” she said.
Melissa Krantz, a spokeswoman for LCG, said that its case managers regularly met with clients and kept records of those interactions. She also said LCG always advocated for the tenants to get the landlord to fix problems in their apartments.
The Lazar brothers are the sons of Joseph Lazar, a Midwood resident whom state Assemblyman Dov Hikind handpicked to run for City Council in a 2010 special election. Then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also supported Joseph’s campaign.
But Joseph, 69, lost the race to David Greenfield.
Records show that Joseph Lazar works full-time as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer for LCG but receives no compensation for his services.
His sons’ LCG office is inside a building that he owns, according to city records.
His 36-year-old twins each own homes in Lawrence, L.I.
Krantz said that the relationship between LCG and the brothers’ for-profit Razzal is noted in public tax filings.
She said the nonprofit’s lawyers picked Razzal through a transparent process that involved putting out a request for proposals.
DHS said it was unaware of Razzal’s ties to the twins but was now looking into the relationship.
The city previously ripped into LCG in May 2016 after it found many of the nonprofit’s cluster units had building violations that landlords refused to fix. The city also took legal action against LCG’s landlords to compel compliance.
At the time, the Department of Social Services sent a letter to LCG questioning its ability operate it cluster units. Still the nonprofit was allowed to keep operating under further oversight and tougher enforcement, according to DHS.
Councilman Raphael Salamanca (D-South Bronx) said he was well aware of the complaints about LCG, but he praised DHS for taking steps to reduce the number of cluster sites.
He said he and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Stephen Banks — who oversees DHS — had “very uncomfortable conversations about the amount of cluster apartments” in his district. Ultimately, he said the meetings were productive.
“We working hand in hand to reduce these cluster sites,” Salamanca said.