Michael Acevedo, president of the Orange County Landlords Association, made no friends during his testimony before the New York Senate Investigations and Government Operations, and Housing Committees on Thursday.
The senators made an example of him before a crowded auditorium at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center.
To better understand the concerns of local landlords, Investigations and Government Operations Committee Chairman, Senator James Skoufis, first asked Acevedo how many properties he owned.
"One too many," Acevedo said with a smirk.
Acevedo continued for several minutes to evade standard questions about his properties, past code violations, and evictions.
"I have CRS [Congenital Rubella Syndrome]. I can't remember [expletive], okay?" Acevedo said, when asked a third time about how many properties his family owned under their names, or under the names of limited liability companies (LLCs).
Moments later, Acevedo offered another reason for not disclosing basic information about his operation.
"I don't feel you need to know how many properties I have," Acevedo said.
The committee is looking for honest testimony to help shape code enforcement policy, and laws to better protect tenants and landlords.
When asked how many code violations he has had, Acevedo remembered two.
"I don't recall having many violations," Acevedo said with a shrug.
"That's not the information we have," Skoufis said, hinting the committee had done some research ahead of time and had a different number than Acevedo's approximation.
Housing committee members then informed Acevedo that based on what they have learned through a months-long code enforcement investigation, he had been hit with 247 violations in the last 13 years. That averages out to just under two violations each month.
After Acevedo was dismissed, five Newburgh city officials testified, confirming the committee's figures on Acevedo's apartment rental business.
"Yes, the numbers you have are accurate," said City Manager Joseph Donat. "And I think the numbers speak for themselves."
City officials told the committee they would like to be able to compel landlords to appear in court for code violations in the same way people are threatened with jail time for not appearing on traffic violations.
"We just don't have their similar consquences for building and property code violations," said City Attorney Michelle Kelson.
The senators were clearly appalled at Acevedo's description of tenants he evicted at a now-vacant home on Johnston Street, saying it was evidence code enforcement policy must be stricter.
"What was the basis for the vacate order at 86 Johnston?" asked Housing Commitee Chairman Senator Brian Kavanagh.
"The tenants were animals," Acevedo replied, before listing the types of damage done to the building.
By this point, Skoufis had enough and rebuked Acevedo for disrespectful language during a sworn testimony.
"I wish I didn't have to say this to a constituent," Skoufis began, as Acevedo's posture appeared less confident. "I'm floored and I'm deeply offended you would characterize any human being you deal with as an animal. I don't care what any person did to your apartment or any apartment. They could be the worst tenants in the world, but they are not animals, sir."
"I think that speaks volume to the relationship, or lack thereof, you and some other landlords have with their tenants, and the need for the government to step in as a municipality and do proper code enforcement ... because if a landlord views a tenant as an animal, clearly that landlord is not going to go out of their way to do the right thing by that person."