Postgraduate Center for Mental Health has $130 million in two cash reserves and steady funding from the state, but conditions inside the apartments it rents for low-income tenants continue to deteriorate. The organization says it is forced to rent substandard units because state contracts are too low to cover better housing.

Adi Talwar

Choice Scott in her kitchen with her children in their former supportive housing apartment in The Bronx, pictured here in February. They’d gone without gas in the unit for seven months.

Behind the unlocked front door to a Fordham Heights apartment building, Choice Scott and her neighbors faced one hazard after another.

Scott, a mother of two, went seven months without cooking gas before it was restored in January. When City Limits visited the building on East 182nd Street that month, she and three neighbors showed off the hot plates with electric burners that management had given them the previous summer. She had recently won a court case forcing the property owner to turn the gas back on and to address a mouse and roach infestation.

On Jan. 12, her 7-year-old son was scalded by steam spraying from a bedroom radiator valve. “This is clearly a hazard in the home,” a Harlem Hospital physician wrote in a letter to the landlord, a limited liability corporation tied to property owner Jonathan Malinas. “I strongly recommend that this be addressed urgently by the landlord to prevent further injury to the children in the home.”

Scott and her children finally moved out last month, but contend with another lingering problem: Her 2-year-old daughter has had multiple blood tests that show lead levels of 4 micrograms per deciliter—higher than the threshold considered safe for children by the city and federal government. City inspectors have opened an investigation, and while initial checks did not identify lead in the paint that flaked off the apartment’s walls, Scott worries the tests weren’t thorough enough.

“It’s like a slum,” Scott said. “And I didn’t feel safe.”

Some of the problems are familiar to low-income tenants across The Bronx, where low-cost housing crumbles and absentee owners with large portfolios neglect repairs. Yet in the case of Scott and at least three of her neighbors, there were supposed to be additional protections in place.

The apartment is rented by a nonprofit tasked with providing safe housing with social services to formerly homeless New Yorkers with mental illness. That nonprofit, Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, receives millions of dollars in contracts from New York’s Office of Mental Health (OMH) for its scattered-site program and has about $70 million in a rainy day fund. Its CEO, Dr. Jacob Barak, earns more than $913,000 a year to run an organization and related companies with various real estate holdings, mental health services and housing programs, tax filings show. OMH, meanwhile, oversees the 20,000 scattered-site supportive housing units statewide, including 16,000 in the five boroughs.

READ MORE: Dilapidated Apartments, Lousy Landlords Plague NYC’s Sprawling ‘Scattered-Site’ Supportive Housing Network

But as City Limits has previously reported, egregious, unsafe conditions plague New York City’s network of scattered-site supportive housing, where nonprofit providers with government contracts rent units in privately-owned buildings and sublease them to formerly homeless New Yorkers with mental illness, HIV/AIDS and other special needs.

Postgraduate Center is no exception.

Scott’s former apartment is one of around 540 units that Postgraduate Center leases for its scattered-site supportive housing program, with just over 440 funded by contracts from OMH. That makes Postgraduate the seventh-largest OMH-funded portfolio in New York City, according to data provided by the state in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.

City Limits identified 32 buildings where Postgraduate Center rents apartments, based on a review of lawsuits, housing court documents and interviews with five tenants. Nearly half—15 of the 32 buildings—are owned by people who have appeared on the public advocate’s annual Worst Landlords List. The 32 buildings accounted for 1,433 open housing code violations as of July 8, including 398 open Class C, or “immediately hazardous,” violations. Postgraduate Center rents only some of the apartments in those buildings, while the rest of the units are leased by individual tenants and, at times, other nonprofits.

Among the findings: 


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