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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


The illegal sublet

Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

Bill Golodner, whose work includes checking
whether people are illegally subletting rent-regulated
apartments, at work in Queens.

Illegal Sublets Put Private Eyes on the Case
Published: January 27, 2007

The house was one of those stucco numbers that grow in the suburbs like crab grass. The woman in question was a cagey brunette suspected of chiseling her landlord. She had a rent-regulated apartment in Manhattan that she seemed to be subletting illegally for twice what she was paying, while sleeping in the stucco house just outside the city.

Bill Golodner idled his sport utility vehicle beside the curb a few doors down. He clipped a surveillance camera to the steering wheel and brought the house into focus. He ran a rough paw over his shaved head, switched on a camera concealed behind the third buttonhole of his dress shirt, then slipped out into the chill morning, heading for the front door.

Philip Marlowe, if he were around, might be doing rent-fraud cases, too.

These are busy times for private investigators in the real estate racket in New York City. Market-rate rents are in the exosphere. Denizens of the city’s 1.1 million rent-regulated apartments have dug in, and landlords are shelling out serious money in search of grounds to dislodge rent-law violators and get a chance to push up rents when an apartment turns over to a new tenant.

At the confluence of those crosswinds, a private eye can flourish. Investigators like Mr. Golodner sweep up whatever incriminating evidence can be used by building owners and their lawyers to show scofflaw tenants the wisdom of, say, relocation.

Mr. Golodner and his partner, Bruce Frankel, both former New York City police detectives, say their firm has handled close to 500 real estate cases in the past year. They mine public records, plumb the depths of the World Wide Web, plant hidden cameras — trawling for proof of illegal subletting, income-limit violations and the improper use of apartments for businesses, even prostitution and drug dealing.

“Everybody thinks landlords are bad and we can steal from them,” said Mr. Frankel, a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam who later worked in the garment center and can still spot a tailor-made suit by the sleeve buttons alone. “We live in a life of double standards. We have all these great people who go to work, donate to charities, talk about how the war is horrible — but everybody still thinks it’s O.K. to have the Robin Hood mentality.”

Take the tenant who seemed to be allowing her Manhattan apartment to be used for illicit business. The owner of the building answered an ad for what Mr. Frankel and Mr. Golodner call a massage. Unexpectedly, he found himself in a building he owned. When Mr. Frankel and Mr. Golodner investigated, they say the found the tenant of record was paying $800 a month but living in Westchester County, while collecting $2,700 a month from the woman in the apartment selling her services.

When I covered real estate, I ran into this. I was astonished at the cleverness of apartment thieves

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