The New Brothels: How Shady Landlords Play a Key Role in the Sex Trade

Nov 14, 2018 · 148 comments
Pete in Downtown (back in town)
So, why does this landlord still own the building (s) in question? People's cars and other possessions have been confiscated for mere suspicion of having been used for drug dealing and similar offenses. As prostitution is illegal in New York, he aided, abetted and profited from criminal activity, plus, with children also living in the building, endangered the welfare of several minors. Sounds like enough reasons to put a lien on this and other assets of this "gentleman". What is the Manhattan DA doing about this, aside from trying hard to look the other way?
Doug (Chicago)
Legalize it and all this goes away.
Martha Goff (Sacramento CA)
What I can never understand is why the men who pay for the prostitutes are not the main focus of law enforcement action, along with the pimps. Landlords and others are important, of course, but without the customers, sex trafficking would come to a screeching halt.
kathy (SF Bay Area)
It's simple: some of the johns are cops and others with power. It's much more fun to threaten and abuse powerless girls and women than to reveal the hypocrisy of law enforcement and subject them to the justice system.
Nycgal (New York)
Illegal or legalised there will always be victims. In the photo, do you think the lady walking with the child would like it better with a legal brothel or an illegal brothel in her neighborhood?
Ana (NYC)
The zoning issues would be different if it were legal.
Michael Epton (Seattle)
Shady landlords? Brothels? It has been ever thus:
Chris (New York)
outside of my profession which happened to be real estate a good part of my adult life was spent in a volunteer ministry helping the least fortunate in our city, so a lot was seen. a good percentage of the sex workers freely engage in this work and find it to be beneficial and not particularly degrading. the compensation per unit time can be very high and in this city everyone from sex worker to landlord to the people serving her basic life needs appreciates the undeclared income as it is an unmentioned fact of life and necessity for many of the least among us. even with a higher minimum wage, the affordability picture is quite bleak. a sex worker can earn significant amounts of money rivaling that of many mainstream professions in a fraction of the hourly investment that these professions require. and much like other cash workers she does not fall victim to losing public subsidies once the very low poverty line threshold is crossed. there are students doing this as opposed to working all night as a food service worker. there is an unwillingness to discuss certain things in our society. ny'ers are liberal but often not sophisticated in fact very parochial at the same time preferring not to discuss things instead of face them as if they go away. this issue involves two truths about how we live and both involve hacking the system to meet basic needs more efficiently than the accepted way allows. yet, neither can be discussed honestly as they reveal something to hard to face.
Bob (CT)
Family legend has it that in the late 1890s my own struggling German immigrant great grandmother had a similar thing going on in one of the apartments in the East Harlem building she owned following her construction laborer husband's death at 35 from TB. She ran what sounded like a German version of a bodega on the first floor. Supposedly, once she figured out what was going on she was able to evict the tenants.
Karen B (NYC)
Maybe the landlord had some good incentive!
rudolf (new york)
In Amsterdam you have the Walletjes and in New Amsterdam there is Wallstreet. Both are doing quite well.
Jean (Cleary)
So why would the City of New York trust Mr. Schwartz to take care of the homeless? Why doesn't the City spend the money they pay Mr. Schwartz on buying up "dumpsters" and rehabbing them. They would save millions of dollars a year by housing the Homeless in City owned properties. What a disgrace.
Sh (Brooklyn)
In the year 2018 paid sex between two consenting adults is still illegal in America. But Amazon, a company that pays its warehouse workers barely a living wage gets billions of dollars in tax breaks. Go figure!!!
Hillary (Seattle)
OK, so what's the real problem here: Prostitution or all the unsavory activities associated with it? I totally agree with the commenters that call for legalization of prostitution. If a woman chooses to do this, as morally suspect as it may be to some, she should be able to reap the benefits and be afforded legal protections. To this end, I think that trafficking laws should be stiffened to support and protect women and children from exploitation. Pimp out a 14 year old? End up in prison for 40 years. Force an illegal immigrant to prostitute against her will? Life in prison. Not all that hard. Furthermore, with legalization, the trade can be regulated using zoning laws, medical checks as a precondition for licensing, etc. Oh, can you can tax it as well (the quintessential "sin" tax). One can bemoan lack of opportunity for women or "patriarchal rape culture" all you want. Just liberal nonsense that solves no actual problems. The only way to solve the described problem is through actual, practical policies, not liberal sound bites.
Gregor (BC Canada)
Those guys, ex police should be made, in prison, to be subjected to non-stop playing of Serpico until they can recite it and write the screenplay by heart, then go on tour preforming an adaptation of it in front of prison audiences everywhere for at least 10 years. Then give TED style talks for another 5 on how they turned criminal and what they learned in rehab.
oogada (Boogada)
Forget prostitutes and that whole package. Not in a mean way, mind you. This situation is rife with prejudice, class-ism, the clear preference of our legal system for property over human life that forces women into such a trap in the first place. This landlord, and many like him, has been in court, cited hundreds of time for providing housing so vile it can't really be called housing. For refusing to maintain properties that provide their income, for endangering tenants, neighborhoods, cities, they should lose their property, never to regain it. The evidence is there in crumbling brick and leaking sewage. If Shragie was a drunk driver we'd be outraged he was allowed out in public. Not that it would do any good. But he is a landlord, an owner, a man of substance and no doubt excellent reputation in his home community, his religious community, among his friends. So he walks. And walks. In a city of such arrogance, the lack of self-respect is stunning. Human life is so cheap, New York City allows these travesties to continue for decades. Our courts, city leaders, media are culpable in unforgivable ways. These buildings should be taken, torn down, whatever value remains taken by the city to provide services to people abused by a legal system so prejudiced, so careless of humanity. My tax dollars should be refunded to me. I'm not paying to keep creepy old men rolling around on the fat of the land, to so diminish the lives of people who need our help.
TJ (New Orleans)
So many of these taxpayer-funded programs (direct payments and tax credits) to feed or house the homeless, or to assist low income people with housing, are abused by shady characters like Mr. Schwartz. I'd almost prefer to see these programs simply unfunded and stopped. I think developers and landlords would reduce rents in the long run, making it more affordable for everyone.
Federalist (California)
If the landlord was complicit the property is forfeit and should be seized.
Nicholas (Manhattan)
Schwartz’s presence on the Worst Landlords list is too high of an honor. He belongs on the list of Worst Slumlords.
Mike (NY)
Another example of the moral blindness of extremely religious people.
August West (Midwest)
"In New York, gentrification has pushed prostitution indoors. Street walkers have all but disappeared. Prostitutes now advertise online, sex dates are arranged over the phone and brothels operate inside apartments in residential neighborhoods." Says who? And what of this: This seems situational journalism. In this instant story, we're told streetwalkers have disappeared. In the story that ran last month, we're told streetwalkers are out in force. Let's cut to the chase. The demise of Backpage due to the government making online sex ads illegal has driven sex work underground, making prostitution more dangerous for women and forcing them to rely on pimps and brothels. Also made it tougher for police (if they ever wanted to) to enforce prostitution laws. Thanks, all you self-righteous crusaders--and yes, that includes NYT--and opportunistic politicians for gutting the First Amendment in the guise of battling human trafficking. We're reaping what you've sown.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
There was a study from about ten years ago comparing the outcomes of sex workers in Newark, NJ to those in Las Vegas, NV. Someone engaging in transactional sex had about a 50-50 chance of contracting HIV/AIDS in Newark. The same population in Las Vegas? The risk was virtually non-existent. Lower than the risk among the regular population actually. If you look to countries like Denmark, the sex industry is also segregated from normal areas. You don't have to worry about children accidentally stumbling across sexual transactions. There's a place for that. It exists very far away from where children should normally operate. You look at the US though? I once had a building near me where business was transacted in broad daylight not one hundred yards from an elementary school. The police knew. They were told repeatedly. Meanwhile the property owner was what we call a slumlord. I don't need to expand on the word. Schwartz appears to fit the description though. A regulated market is safer for everyone. Law enforcement clearly doesn't have the tools or incentive to enforce existing laws. More importantly though, real estate is notoriously unaccountable anyway. Have you ever tried approaching an LLC over a civil matter? I was physically threatened by a property manager once because I discovered the company's true owner. My first step, slumlord or pimp, would be to ask for transparency and accountability in the real estate market. Everything else will follow in due course.
Iconic Icon (405 adjacent)
Re Dave Sanders' photo of the Park Slope building: I am not a New Yorker. I would never want to live in, or even visit, a community where you have to put metal bars over the window air conditioner.
TheUnsaid (The Internet)
It's an undeniable logical contradiction: If the stated purpose of criminalizing prostitution is the welfare of prostitutes, why turn prostitutes into criminals? Why make them afraid to go to the police, encourage laws that make what they do even riskier & dangerous (ie: the Fosta-Sesta act)? Why discourage them to go to the police report & testify against human trafficking and child prostitution, by criminalizing them and their adult activities? It's hard to avoid a conclusion that "welfare of prostitutes" is an illogical moral rationalization intended to hide different reasons: no matter how much that does harm prostitutes.
Colenso (Cairns)
'In New York, gentrification has pushed prostitution indoors. Street walkers have all but disappeared. Prostitutes now advertise online, sex dates are arranged over the phone and brothels operate inside apartments in residential neighborhoods.' Anything that gets streetwalkers off the street is a good thing. For the streewalkers themselves and for the rest of us. The worst problems are caused by street walkers, their pimps and johns. Until you've lived in a poor neighbourhood, as I have, where the street walkers and their pimps rule, one has no idea how ghastly they are. And yes, the street walkers themselves are every bit as nasty, vicious, violent, foul mouthed and aggressive as their pimps and johns. Streewalkers are much more than mere victims.
There (Here)
People have been trying to stop prostitution for what, well, since the beginning if time. It's folly and a waste of money, to keep chasing this ridiculous objective. People need an outlet for sex through this industry, that's has been proven time and time again. They will not be stopped and they will not be deterred regardless of the possibility of arrest or punishment. The urge is too strong. To deny that is to not fully understand the problem. Legalize it and let it be. SO tiresome.
W (Minneapolis, MN)
According to the article: "...the police have had a difficult time proving the extent of an owner’s knowledge and involvement." I'm wondering why they don't use RICO to do this. A pimp and a prostitute working together to break the law forms a conspiracy. If the meeting is set up electronically, add a charge of wire fraud. And then link the landlord on the basis of a chain conspiracy. If more than one pimp is involved, then link the landlord under a wheel conspiracy. The definition for 'chain conspiracy', according to Black's Law Dictionary (10th Ed): “A single conspiracy in which each person is responsible for a distinct act within the overall plan, such as an agreement to produce, import, and distribute narcotics in which each person performs only one function. ● All participants are interested in the overall scheme and liable for all other participants' acts in furtherance of that scheme.” The definition for 'wheel conspiracy', according to Black's Law Dictionary (10th Ed): “A conspiracy in which a single member or group (the 'hub') separately agrees with two or more other members or groups (the 'spokes'). ● The person or group at the hub is only partly liable for all the conspiracies.”
RR (California)
Amazing that a Manhattan rental property owner could continue his/her/their business with large numbers of outstanding Housing/Building Code Violations. What I take from this article is that like everywhere in the U.S. Rental Property owners go scott free when it comes to any crime. If an individual home owner was engaged in such activity as this guy Schartz, anywhere else in the US, he would have a lien on his house from the Department of Revenue for having negligently maintained dangerous conditions in his home (the neighborhood). If he was a rental propert owner in most states, the heavy fines on each building alone, and each count of failure to repair as a Misdemeanor Count, would put the rental property owner in jail again, for the same reason, negligently maintaining unhabitable housing conditions in his rental. Forget the prostitution. It's about creating a hostile environment for the present rent paying and non-criminal tenants so that those non-criminal tenants will move out altogether.
Joseph Louis (Montreal)
It makes me sick to read in this comments section so many men writing that in their opinion, legalizing prostitution is a good idea. They talk about the sex trade business as if it did not destroy the women who are sold to the best offer while they're young and beautiful. The police is doing very little to stop it and the clients continue to buy sex because they know the police is rarely involved in arresting them. Protect our children. Denounce prostitution and/or escorts.
Ilya (NYC)
@Joseph Louis I am also concerned about women who are " who are sold to the best offer while they're young and beautiful." But I believe the best way to help them is to legalize prostitution so that the women who are forced to do this work can freely seek help and approach law enforcement. I am afraid that right now, those women fear police more than they fear their customers or pimps...
Marie (Luxembourg)
@Joseph Louis Merci. And the many men should make no mistake: this is not a profession but an activity, often violent physically and/or psychologically, that mostly is exercised by financially desperate women.
Just Julien (Brooklyn, NYC)
And by enterprising young men. It’s a big world out there.
Craig Mason (Spokane, WA)
Legalize, legalize, legalize, and reasonably regulate, sex work. It makes it safer for all, and reduces harm to all. For example: Gary Ridgeway (the "Green River Killer") killed 49 women (maybe 80), many of whom were married mothers making extra money. These women jumped into a stranger's car because illegality made furtive behavior necessary and it made kidnapping easy. If Ridgeway had been forced to abduct women, he would have been caught quickly. Making an inevitable industry illegal guarantees more violence against, and abuse of, women, than would occur in the "daylight" of legalized sex work. Prohibition of a widely-sought consensual exchange simply breeds pathology and violence. It is far beyond time to make sex work a regulated trade.
Martha Shelley (Portland, OR)
The commenters (overwhelmingly male) who say prostitution should be legalized and regulated are oblivious to the reality of the work. I've met prostitutes (once, after a feminist demonstration in 1970, I spent the night with some in the Women's House of Detention). Some of my long-term friends prostituted themselves in times of desperation. Women who "choose" this work are either lacking any other job skills, or drug addicted, or were sexually abused as children, or all three. Or, in war-torn countries, women resort to prostitution in order to feed themselves and their children. Solutions: give girls a decent education and job skills. And find out why so many men are so emotionally defective that they want to use and abuse women sexually.
zigful26 (Los Angeles, CA)
@Martha Shelley "Women who "choose" this work are either lacking any other job skills, or drug addicted, or were sexually abused as children, or all three" Ok Martha so in 1970 you met some street walkers that had horrible lives. So is that some kind of anthropological study. I think it's time to meet some very beautiful and VERY well paid escorts that would call you just another troll decimating false emotional information. But I'm sure you're a liberal so therefore you get to tell thousands of happy and successful sex workers you know what's best for them.
Mickela (New York)
@zigful26 You obviously haven't seen the women and men coming and going out of the buildings mentioned in this article. Nothing beautiful nor happy.
There (Here)
Yeah, there's lots of time for that
Antoine (Taos, NM)
So tell me again, what's wrong with paying for sex?
William Smith (United States)
@Antoine Robert De Niro might barge in with a Machine Gun so he can save 13 year old Jodie Foster. I've Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver too many times.
Dorothy Teer (Durham NC)
make it illegal to buy women! arrest the pimps and johns
ubique (NY)
If only someone had thought of this problem sooner. “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. The wood of the forest, the grass of the field, and all the natural fruits of the earth, which, when land was in common, cost the labourer only the trouble of gathering them, come, even to him, to have an additional price fixed upon them. He must then pay for the licence to gather them; and must give up to the landlord a portion of what his labour either collects or produces. This portion, or, what comes to the same thing, the price of this portion, constitutes the rent of land...” -Adam Smith, ‘The Wealth of Nations’
seannie (pittsburgh)
@ubique hey ubique thanks for this adam smith quote above, it is timely for sure and informative. i have not read him but i realize his thought informed some of the "framers" thinking, as did John Locke's and Thomas Hobbes' writing.
richguy (t)
@ubique Here, Smith blithely ignores competition over resources. Tribes might fight over hunting or fishing areas. Farmers might fight over crop land. It takes private ownership or state ownership to prevent violence due to competition for resources. Perhaps my view is too Hobbesian. Smith is describing a hunter/gatherer stage of society. Private property is the price of modern civilization. Even under socialism, there is private property, but the state is the owner. Christopher Hill seems to point to the enclosure of the commons as the beginning of the downfall of England and Europe, but even before the commons were enclosed, the land was, I believe, owned by the crown and shared with the people. Then the crown started to sell off the kingdom to the nobility in exchange for funds to prosecute debilitating wars.
richguy (t)
@richguy Ideally, a capitalist society (a culture defined by private property) is less violent than a tribal society, and, I think, you need ownership/property to prevent the formation of tribal units. It seems to me, if you don't have ownership (as a fact/concept), you'll get tribalism. That's what I've learned from The Walking Dead. The question to my mind is do we need a government to supervise owners, or can capitalism regulate itself without government?
camorrista (Brooklyn, NY)
Well, it's no surprise that almost all the advocates of legalizing & regulating protitution are men. Do you think these advocates would object if their wives & daughters went to work in these clean & safe legalized & regulated brothels? After all, the money's good, and the only objections to whoring as an occupation come from moralists & puritans. Or so the men say.
Paulie (Earth)
Would you prefer prostitution remains illegal with absolutely no protections for the woman? How is that a better solution?
Rodrick Wallace (Manhattan)
The same thing is happening with the drug trade. In Washington heights, the landlords rent to dealers as a way of forcing long-term tenants out. Gentrification and the drug trade in Washington Heights reinforce each other in a spiraling process. Families with children and the elderly particularly flee the thugs and addicts. Besides the usual open-air selling, sales take place in lobbies and apartments. I fled Fort George where the area was controlled by an iron triangle: organized crime, landlords, and corrupt police.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
@Rodrick Wallace I used to live in Fort George. We called it Fort Tryon or Washington Heights depending on whether you took the A train or the 1 train. The difference mostly depended on the day of the week. I didn't experience anything remotely like what you describe. My neighborhood was quiet and healthy. Quiet for New York anyway. The landlord wasn't exactly attentive. On the upside though, the landlord wasn't exactly attentive. We had a decent property manager. Good subway access. All the stores and restaurants we needed. There was Fort Tryon to the north or the Greenway to the west. The rent was cheap. We even had a movie theater in the area. I once heard someone say they remember Washington Heights where drugs were dropping out of the windows. I never experienced that. You'd occasionally see domestic disputes explode on the street but the loudest fights mostly involved traffic enforcement. If there was an Iron Triangle, it didn't exist by the time I got there. My biggest problems were always transportation related.
Despair (NH)
Oldest profession. Legalize and regulate. Arrest the customers. All fair(ish) points. But right now it's illegal, and arguments can be made that participating in it rises to the level of human trafficking. And, yes, it is appalling that police corruption is part and parcel of these enterprises. What I find shocking is the apparent inability for non-corrupt law enforcement to find the proof they need for successful prosecutions. It's really a matter of will and funding to address these issues. It's how the FBI wrapped up mobsters in Boston, NY, and elsewhere. (Read Gangland by Howard Blum, an early 1990s account of how the FBI wrapped up John Gotti and others using what from the 2018 perspective was antiquated technology. But they had the will and they fought for the funding.) Sure, prostitution is not going to go away, and maybe legalizing and regulating is the approach to take. In the meantime, there are legal actions that the city could take if the will is there to persist in the fight.
ubique (NY)
“Oldest profession.” In other words, we live in a patriarchal rape culture, which has been plagued by power abuses for an excruciatingly long time.
Northwoods Cynic (Wisconsin)
@ubique People - women and men- renting their bodies for sex, in exchange for money, is a very old story. (But “patriarchal rape culture” is a nice phrase. Problem: Nice phrases won’t solve this problem.)
ubique (NY)
@Northwoods Cynic Who was the first woman in the Garden story, again? Oops.
B (Queens)
NYC has become so antagonistic to landlords that it is often not worth the trouble and expense to evict these individuals that ruin the quality of life for other tenants. I am now on month seven of my effort to evict a tenant that is causing a nuisance to other tenants and threatening myself and them. I am now out 10k in rent and 3k in legal fees. Allow landlords to maintain order in their buildings and fewer people will have the misfortune of living next to a brothel.
Lisa (NYC)
The city would be so much healthier for the sex worker if prostitution was legalized. It isn't going to go away so why don't we as a society make it safer, cleaner, less violent and corrupt? Those poor girls not only had their pimps to contend with but a crooked landlord who should go to prison and the police. Yuck! How do you guys sleep at night? And where is the punishment for landlords who are consistently on the "Worst of" list? Why do they still have their properties? Put Schwartz and Paz in jail and only hope they get to experience a little bit of the sex trade inside.
RBR (Santa Cruz, CA)
How’s possibly that sex slavery is alive and well in the USA? The country that supposedly keep tabs on other countries human rights? How’s possibly that this happens on a family neighborhood? Is that the so called Comandante in Chief also patronize sex work?
JK (Hackensack)
We should show some respect and ensure safety for the workers in the oldest profession in the world but - and this is the big story here - humiliate the seven "officers" who bring shame to their badges by offering protection to sex slave drivers and undoubtedly on the take for their efforts. Seven! Not much has changed then as far as police corruption then.
Mickela (New York)
@JK astronomy is the oldest profession. Prostitution is not a profession.
Waltcs (Canton, MI)
New York has a long, long history of prostitution assisted by corrupt law enforcement officers. Maybe its time the Big Apple legalized, regulated and taxed this activity. If prostitutes signed affidavits indicating they were freely entering the profession, this would reduce the problem of human trafficking. Areas of the city zoned for this activity would keep the profession located in designated areas. The taxes collected from operators could be used to help stem the spread of STDs. Profits would be directed away from corrupt law enforcement officers. It's time we recognized that the "world's oldest profession" is not going to be solved by enforcement of morals laws.
Easy Goer (Louisiana)
It pains me to point this out, because I believe 99%+ of the police in this precinct are "clean"; however, with the amount of cash involved, you can bet your bottom dollar at least one or more detective grade officers are on their payroll to protect them. Remember, this is the "world's oldest profession".
Moderately (USA)
Just legalize it. And tax it, inspect it, make it safer.
Sean (Ft Lee. N.J.)
Consenting adults engaging in natural stress relieving function amongst puritanical, probably hypocritically describing "progressive", busybodies.
David Kesler (San Francisco)
Like so many things in this twisted and confused country, sex work should be carefully regulated and legalized with women in full control of how they choose to make a living in this horrifically difficult world. Recent studies have demonstrated that evangelicals watch porn at least as much as the rest of the population, for instance, and certainly engage with the sex industry on at least the same level as other sectors of society. Many Americans, often the most conservative, seem to want to think they are "puritan" and thus, repressed, engage with the sex industry and in surreptitious sexual escapes on the sly. We desperately need to wake up, with women at the center of our thoughts, and adjust our relation to sex and sexuality accordingly. That includes legalizing and regulating sex work.
Annie Gramson Hill (Mount Kisco, NY)
The NYPD will continue to aggressively target adults for engaging in consensual sex because there’s good money in it and it’s still a respectable means of advancing one’s career. Police officers need overtime, they want to earn promotions so they’re not stuck directing traffic in places like the Holland Tunnel, and they want to avoid dangerous settings so they’ll be able to collect a full pension after 20 years. Chasing after people who are guilty of taking off their clothes is one way to meet all of those needs for overtime, promotions and safety. If Americans can ever get beyond their sanctimonious superstitious beliefs that policing consensual sexual behavior between adults is an appropriate use of taxpayer resources, we would experience the blessed relief of not stumbling across idiotic stories like this in legitimate newspapers.
Joe (Ohio)
@Annie Gramson Hill Most of these women are trafficked or drug addicts. This is not harmless consensual sex.
William Smith (United States)
@Annie Gramson Hill "advancing one’s career" Prostitution is a career? How does one advance in it? Degree requirement? Benefits such as healthcare? Any pensions?
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world and the most profitable.
Northwoods Cynic (Wisconsin)
@damon walton Wars are pretty profitable, too, but only for the militart-industrial complex and its owners.
Coles Lee (Charlottesville )
If the corrupt landlords deal primarily in cash, would it be enough to consider sex trafficking/trade a possibility for those who take out large amounts of money in cash? I understand it must be difficult to prosecute such characters, but there must be a paper trail somewhere or at least enough people affiliated with the business to trace those individuals back to the crime.
Joe (Ohio)
Why do men have to do this? Most of these women are trafficked or drug addicts. Only a few do it willingly. You have to be really sick to take advantage of a person in such dire circumstances. If this kind of sick behavior could be genetically engineered out of men it would be a real boon to humanity.
David (California)
The legalization and regulation of prostitution are long overdue. Sexual assault and violence against women would be markedly reduced if men had a legal, safe outlet for their hormonal urges. Even Singapore, where chewing gum in public is illegal, allows prostitution.
Bag (Peekskill)
What a surprise, another shady NYC landlord. Disturbing enough is pimping out apartments, but how can a landlord who’s been on the worst list numerous times still be allowed to continue to have City contracts for Section 8? Who else is on the take beside a few cops?
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
I fail to see why prostitution is even desired. Why do men want to have sex with women who mean nothing to them? Women who despise them? Women who are just pretending? Women who just had sex with someone else a short time ago, and will again when they're finished with this one? When a man uses a woman in that way, doesn't he feel even more lonely and degraded afterward?
Asher (NYNY)
@Ms. Pea, you do know you are describing most marriages and most relationships at some point at least. To answer the insinuation "lonely and degraded" the prostitute can be humble and decent for she cannot make any financial or emotional claim against the man and any accusation against the man will need some actual evidence before the man is handcuffed and his assets seized. God bless everyone.
Dtngai (NY)
@Ms. Pea Perhaps it's because for many men who don't look like Brad Pitt, it's the only avenue. At least legalization will make it a bit more safe for both parties.
William Smith (United States)
@Ms. Pea You're right we have Tinder for that
loosemoose (Montana)
Prostitutes should get off the street as it's dangerous. and another thing is make it legal and take half the fun out of it. Fine pimps they're the ones that need to be outlawed not the prostitutes. What a backwards country we live in.
Sean (Ft Lee. N.J.)
Prostitution saving dead end marriages. Middle aged sexually deprived men needing healthy "seven year itch" outlet.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
"the rise of human trafficking in the United States has resulted in an increasing number of landlords willing to participate in illegal activities" We can all agree that human trafficking is bad. Prostitution is not human trafficking. More in some places than in others, people trafficked can be forced into prostitution, but it is far from the only source of prostitutes. They are not all captives from someplace far away, held in a room by organized crime. While that does happen, prostitution and human trafficking are not the same things.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
"an even bigger problem: a brothel in the building" This is worse we are told than "a gas leak in the unit prompted National Grid to shut off the gas, Mr. Britt said. Then came a bedbug infestation. After that, Mr. Britt said, came a series of ceiling collapses so severe that he could see “day light through the roof.” Those are not my values. A home with a roof, without gas leaks, without bedbugs, that is more important than having a brothel elsewhere nearby. This landlord was in housing court 150 times in a year, and The Problem is that he is also renting a unit to a brothel? THAT is where the coverage goes?
HJR (Wilmington Nc)
@Mark Thomason Yeah but “Brothel” gets the publicity. Betting the brothel has security and is relatively clean. Bugs roaches, gas leaks just not sexy man. LOL
Jess (CT)
This happens everywhere. All around the world. Not only he landlords know it but the police authorities too. Landlords should be the ones with the higher fines and anyone from authorities who knows it...
Socrates (Downtown Verona. NJ)
The problem is puritanism and police-ism, not prostitution. Who needs a corrupt-puritanical-police-prohibition state when a well-regulated sex-worker state works very well, as civilized countries have proven outside the backward, illogical USA. America, its leaders and many of its biblically-concussed voters simply fail to espouse successful, logical public policy that solves these age-old problems. Regulate, tax and enjoy.
Ernest Montague (Oakland, CA)
@Socrates . Indeed, in fact the landlord is a fine man.
wires (KY, USA)
@Ernest Montague - hardly. The landlord appears criminal in many facets of his life. Unfortunately this is a second order effect of illegal activity. It gives foothold to those that would otherwise not be able to victimize law abiding citizens. In this case by putting together a kingdom of crappy buildings.
pauliev (Soviet Canuckistan)
@Ernest Montague Like every black market, prostitution is run by criminals.
Maria (Brooklyn, NY)
This article is so weird and makes too many assumptions/logical jumps. "In New York, gentrification has pushed prostitution indoors." Oh, please, it has been indoors since the beginning of time. Increased trafficking? Try researching and evaluating how the internet, "fake amateur" porn, has increased the sex industry. The decrease of street walkers has been a long time coming as many workers have found safer ways to deliver services. Again, check the internet. Likewise, street walkers often took their business inside and relied on "complicit" landlords, corrupt law enforcement etc.
Easy Goer (Louisiana)
@Maria Agreed. "pushed indoors" is pretty ignorant, as most of this activity is indoors, in order to prosper.
JG (Denver)
Prostitution is not a profession. It has been imposed on woman by men who deprived them of education and stripped them of any inheritance what soever. Google the rules of inheritance in the three major religions. They will make you sick. Patriarchy is an abject tradition with absolute power.
Issy (USA)
I’d like to also add that we need to reframe our understanding forced prostitution as gang rape and start charging men you frequent brothels as such. Patriarchy has justified it as just men needing sex for far too long. Like rape it’s about a power imbalance dynamic, both often violent and economic coercion. Let’s call it what it is: rape on a grande scale.
Mike (NJ)
Prostitution is the world's oldest profession and even male primates, in experiments, have paid for sex. Many men get married to have unfettered sex, but that obviously a bit more than a mere commercial arrangement. The answer, as many other countries (and some of our states like NV) have found, is to make prostitution legal. Make it legal but license it, regulate it and tax it. Professional sex workers should receive benefits such as social security credits, etc. Legalization would also help curtail human trafficking since sex workers would be licensed.
Anne Russell (Wrightsville Beach NC)
@Mike Problem with legalizing prostitution is it would have to be listed in the official Dictionary of Occupational Titles as an approved profession, and school guidance counselors could recommend it to students, and parents use their children as prostitutes to bring in $ for families. Additionally, many more abortions and much more VD would occur. No no no no.
steveconn (new mexico)
San Francisco also has a prominent trade. They don't call it 'Bush st.' for nothing.
Anna R (Ohio)
Not funny. There’s too much violence and pain tied up with prostitution for this to be funny, especially in response to this article.
steveconn (new mexico)
@Anna R The Asian massage women there are very jolly and there's a 'We do not participate in Sex Slavery' sign over the desk (or so I hear).
Etienne (Los Angeles)
The world's oldest profession is not going away. Legislate it, control it and require health certification. We spend too much time, money and effort on a losing proposition (no pun intended) here.
dmckj (Maine)
The article makes a leap of faith that these men were involved in 'human trafficking' How do they know that. If there was indeed human trafficking, lock the appropriate people up. If the women were of their own free will selling sex, who cares? Prostitution, as the oldest trade, is rampant at the highest levels of our government (see Commander in Chief), and will continue one way or another. Better to focus on making it safe rather than making it yet more criminal. The former offers the chance for some of these women to change their lives; the latter certainly does not. We need to stop being so Pollyanna about all of this.
Beau (New York City)
@dmckj - Prostitution is veru often NOT consenusal by women (or men) as they often have violent pimps forcing them into selling their bodies. It is not safe with HIV and other STD's and many sex workers are addicts and sell their bodies for drugs. We are not Pollyannas - let's stop this debasement of women and men who are forced to sell their bodies for sex. It is degrading and prostitution should not continue to be the oldest trade. How would any of you like it if your daughter, son, sister or brother had to sell their body in order to live in these times? I hope this article will help reflect the greediness of landlords, crooked police and others who prey upon those women and the culprits wind up in jail.
Asher (NYNY)
One of the most honest ways to make a living providing a service that is not less important than any health professional. The only people and institution that have a problem with commercial sex are women and Family Court whose function is to separate men from their own financial resources and their own children.
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
@Asher--It's not just "women and Family Court" that have a problem with commercial sex. Other tenants who live in the buildings being used as brothels also have a problem with it. As the article points out--buzzers ringing at all hours, strange men prowling the halls looking for the right apartment. Most families don't want to live in a brothel.
Anna R (Ohio)
“Not less important than any health professional”?!! Seriously?
Fern (Home)
@Asher Very strange comment, particularly "the only people" portion. Please keep in mind that your personal problems with divorce court are only a small slice of everything else in the world, though they may seem overwhelming from your perspective.
Jimmy (England)
NYC could follow the same process to decriminalize and regulate sex trades that it used years ago when it decriminalized tattoo services. Now there are parlours, clean and regulated. Before that, you could get a tattoo in NYC but it was in someone's apartment from an unlicensed practitioner and sterilization and other safety issues uncertain.
Joe Sneed (Bedminister PA)
Legalize prostitution. Regulate it for health concerns. Tax it, but not so much that a black market emerges. Everybody wins, but the big winners will be the women involved.
Outrageous that the prosecutors need to prove intention and material gain to win a conviction against the landlords. The fact of prostitution on their premises should be enough.
Schneiderman (New York, New York)
@CFB Criminal liability should never rest on a strict liability standard. The "mens rea" or criminal intent is almost always an element of a crime. Your suggestion would erase many hundreds of years of legal history.
george eliot (annapolis, md)
Easy pickings. Brothels have been operating on the upper east side of Manhattan for over a hundred years. Except there, in what the "masters of the universe" call the "silk stocking district," everybody is well paid, and the women are referred to as "escorts."
sob (boston)
Why does the City do business with this landlord if they judge him to be among the worst? Why can't the johns just pay for a hotel room and leave the renters alone, that way apartments could be used for legit purposes. No way to stamp out this behavior between consenting adults, it should made legal, and the NYPD numbers be reduced. NYC has far more pressing issues and this vice budget should be redirected.
gb (New York)
@sob No way. Unless you are able to heartily recommend this job choice to your daughter. This is exploitation of women at the most vulnerable levels of our society.
sj (kcmo)
@sob, because some "johns" are cheap. Even supposedly successful ones may not want to rent a suite at the Four Seasons and will even try to bargain down independent operators, complaining on a web review site when they don't get what they want at the price they're willing to pay. So, men of all stripes get a better deal and corrupt LE and their accessories make out like bandits. Don't you understand that vice depts. are what keep your taxes lower?
Ana (NYC)
@gb There are a lot of things that I wouldn't want my daughter or niece to do. I'm not crazy about stripping etc. But the black market is not a good thing; it breeds all kinds of ancillary misery and doesn't do the women and men who are sex workers any good.
Gerhard (NY)
"In September, the police broke up a large prostitution ring that had been protected by seven police officers. " Protected by police officers - that's the problem
SR (Bronx, NY)
Dirty cops enjoy the thrill of taking sole advantage of a perk they get to keep from us Small People. (They love drug busts, which give them "evidence" to plant on their enemies as a bonus!) And landlords like the one they protected...well, if landlords spoke against the "covfefe" among them as often as covfefeans demand Muslims speak against the "radical Islamic terrorists" among them, de Blasio would stop giving them favors and start fining them for chronic noise pollution for all their speaking up!
KJ (Tennessee)
Sex sells. Always has, always will. And where there's big money, you'll find an abundance of seedy characters sidling around trying to get a handful of it. There's a lot to be said for legalizing and regulating prostitution. Not only will the workers be consenting adults, safer, and subject to being checked for diseases, the licensed operations will invest heavily in making sure ticks like Schwartz get squashed.
Dr If (Bk)
Just legalize it and bring it into daylight. Stop the moralizing.
Fern (Home)
@Dr If It's not about moralizing. It's about protecting women, and many men's predilection for getting a little sex, then deciding they must have something weirder, escalating to violence and crimes against minors. I don't know if legalizing consenting adult sex would be helpful in preventing that or other sorts of sexual exploitation.
EME (Brooklyn)
As demonstrated by the clean up of Times Square, shutting this guy down would be simple if the city wanted to do it. Why is the city paying to house homeless n buildings with hundreds of DOB violations? My guess is that Schwartz has some good connections in city government and perhaps higher. How exactly did he hook up wit the crooked cop? Someone put them together. Curious to know if he is another Diblasio fund raiser.
Course V (MA)
How does a 44 yr old own $87 million in real estate in NYC???? Follow the money
S K (Atlanta, GA)
The headline is all about the landlords, and not the crooked cops.
Nell (ny)
@S K there have been a lot of headlines about those cops. Google if you are interested. Thanks NYT for looking at the next important level. Crooked landlords cause suffering and injustice in many ways. A lot of tenants pay those prices, and they are most often the least able.
Chris (10013)
In the financial services industry there is rule "know your customer". As landlords are not only complicit in the sex trade, they are also willing participants in drug dens, etc. Theses criminal destroy neighborhoods as do vacant (but owned) homes. A two prong attack: Know your customer rules A penalty property tax for vacant homes Would force landlords to own their buildings as resident owners do. Vacant homes would be either turned over to the city for resale, sold or fixed up and rented with a high penalty vacancy tax
Nelson (California)
Since the Fellow, and his immigrant ancestors, have profiteered enormously from this trade, it is only appropriate that legalizing the outfits would be his major concern. Mar-a-Lago is good place to start (if it hasn't already, that is).
George Locker (NYC)
@Nelson What do you mean by"immigrant ancestors"? Whose immigrant ancestors?
Nelson (California)
@George Locker: You mean you don't know or is it that you don't want to know?
Hugh Massengill (Eugene Oregon)
Al Capone loved prohibition. By making the production, sale, and use of alcohol illegal, America let those who were adept at lawbreaking become kings, and killers, and unbelievably rich criminals. It is so with prostitution. If it were made legal, as marijuana is being made legal across the country, it could be regulated. Making prostitution illegal makes human trafficking more likely, not less, it makes disease and criminal activity more likely, not less. On balance, there are stronger reasons to make it legal than there are good reasons to make it illegal. The religious industry can take its patriarchal blue nose out of the people's lives, for once. Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon
gb (New York)
@Hugh Massengill Everybody's lives but the exploited girls, This is indeed a case for strong moralizing. Stop shirking your duty and ignoring the victims here.
sj (kcmo)
@Hugh Massengill Despite being legal in Amsterdam, human trafficking increased.
Christine Y (Brooklyn)
If bar owners are accountable -and prosecuted- when underaged people drink at their business, and/or people are alcohol poisoned, why can we not enact a similar law that puts landlords on the hook? I know the article said evidence of their complicity is difficult to show - that can be fixed. Complaints by other tenants could count as having prior knowledge, for example.
Reggie (WA)
The important thing here is that prostitution is being gentrified and upgraded. Involved community landlords are getting "street-walkers" off of the streets. "Working girls" now have some shelter and a better measure of safety in which to ply their trade. Safety and security are paramount human needs. The next step(s) in the industry should be in working with landlords to improve their buildings so that a healthy brand of prostitution can be practiced.
Josh Hill (New London)
What an appalling waste of money and law enforcement effort. Schwartz sounds like an awful fellow, but it's hard to see how a landlord allowing prostitution in his building (landlords do that? who knew) ranks with his other crimes. You'd think that after thousands of years of it we'd admit that prostitution isn't going away, and focus our law enforcement efforts, which cruelly hurt mostly the prostitutes themselves, on the real crimes here -- trafficking and the exploitation of minors. Legalization and regulation would make that task more practical.
vulcanalex (Tennessee)
Surely nothing like this could possibly happen in that progressive land of NYC!! These things only happen in areas with uneducated and ignorant folks.
Lee (Brooklyn)
At least they’re not siblings…
Francine (St. Louis)
@Lee ...though genetically the family trees are very close to the ground.
as (new york)
This is one of the consequences of combining quasi open borders with degradation of the social safety net. Women are forced into this trade, which should be legalized.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
@as - How about: This is one of the consequences of steadily transferring the nation's wealth to the 1% pluto-corporatocracy with degradation of the social safety net. Women are forced into this trade which should be legalized.
ShenBowen (New York)
No one is getting rid of a business that has thrived worldwide for thousands of years. The solution to a bordello in your apartment building? Legalized state operated and regulated prostitution, conducted in properly zoned commercial buildings, where women are safe and paid fair wages, facilities are clean and inspected, the state taxes proceeds, women get retirement and healthcare, and customers need not feel like criminals. This works well in many countries like Australia, Switzerland, and Germany. Perhaps prostitution wouldn't be a woman's first choice for a profession, but it can pay better than minimum wage and single women have mouths to feed. Time to drop our puritanical biases and allow women to do this work safely (without pimps) and NOT in residential apartment buildings. Prostitution should be legalized and run or regulated by the State.
MS (Mass)
@ShenBowen, Poverty and hunger are strong aphrodisiacs. Nice.
Elisa (Brooklyn)
And why are they kidnapping men and forcing them to divorce their wives?? Interesting side gig from human trafficking and exploiting the homeless. How is this tied into the ambulance service exactly?? So many questions.
Ren (Austin)
Under Jewish law, for a divorced woman to remarry she needs a “get” from her ex husband. A get is a document stating that the ex wife is free to remarry. Although legally divorced from their wives, these men refuse to sign the get. The ex wives turned to their rabbi for help. This rabbi with the aid of an accomplice would grab the men off the street and force them to sign the get.
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
@Elisa-The men are Orthodox Jews. Orthodox women cannot get divorces unless the husband agrees. Many times he won't. So, the women, or their families, pay to have some sense knocked into the reluctant husbands. Just one of the side effects of fanatical religious belief.
WSB (Manhattan)
@Elisa Jewish law. For a divorce according to Jewish law, the husband must sign a release.
seattle expat (Seattle, WA)
Can we dare to hope that some of his properties have mortgages that can be foreclosed? What a bizarre combination of good and evil in this man -- something for a modern Destoevsky to write about.
Alexia (RI)
As a new landlord in a four-unit house in a low-income neighborhood, I am learning there is a lot is needed in terms of discretion. Being home alone during the day, I am the eyes and ears of the house, and block. I watch families come and go, and guys to stay away from on the street. One can imagine how these shlubs might end up in cohort with their tenants. However, I am of the inclination that prostitution should be legal.
Loretto McCartney (PA)
This made me think of Trumps grandfather who was a hotel keeper who let his hotel act as a brothel and saloon. Houses that allow such abuse shouldn’t stand but they do.
JaiLKKhosla (NY)
Legalize prostitution. Make sure the prostitutes do not carry disease and work only for themselves. Make pimping a crime. Prostitutes should have to register with the authorities. they will have to pay taxes.
Sutter (Sacramento)
@JaiLKKhosla Customers should have to register with authorities too.
Michael (New York)
The city should issue permits allowing this activity in specified buildings.It could be taxed and monitored to assure that "trafficked" individuals are not working there. Then its a win win situation for the city, the landlords,sex workers and their clients.The current approach is not a long term solution. Decriminalization and regulation is the right answer.
joe (New Hampshire)
Time to legalize, regulate and tax the sex trade. Current laws force sex trades underground, increase safety risks to workers and clients and circumvent tax coffers. It's time to end the influence that somebody else's archaic morals have over contemporary quality of life.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
@joe - Bingo! And while we're at it, let's get rid of the War on (Some) Drugs.
See also