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Post date: December 4 2014

A.G. Schneiderman Sues NYC Landlord For Widespread Violations Of State Oil Spill Prevention Laws

Defendant Florence Edelstein Amassed 90 Violations Of Oil Storage Laws At 25 Properties In Manhattan And The Bronx; Oil Spills Pollute Land And Water, Pose Serious Risks To Public Health

Schneiderman: Landlords Must Follow Legal Obligation And Protect Against Oil Spills

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a lawsuit against New York City landlord Florence Edelstein for widespread violations of state oil spill prevention laws that govern the safe handling and storage of heating oil at residential properties. The Attorney General's suit seeks to enforce a July order by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that found Edelstein liable for 90 violations of state laws at 25 properties, three in the Bronx and the others located in Upper Manhattan and on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. According to the complaint, Edelstein failed to correct the violations or pay a $113,500 penalty, as ordered by the DEC. 

“Oil spills pollute our land and water and pose serious risks to public health and safety – and that is why New York has laws aimed at preventing environmental damage before it happens,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Property owners have an obligation to protect our environment and our residents from the harm caused by oil spills. No one is above the law and my office will hold people accountable when they ignore New York’s environmental laws.” 

Oil spills can cause serious harm to human health and safety, as well as to New York’s water, land, and other natural resources. To prevent spills from large fuel storage tanks, including tanks used in residential buildings to hold heating oil, the state has adopted petroleum bulk storage (“PBS”) laws and related regulations applicable to tanks or groups of tanks that can hold more than 1,100 gallons of petroleum. The regulations require proper registration, installation, operation, maintenance, inspection, and, when applicable, closure of PBS tanks to prevent leaks and large-volume oil spills.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “The Petroleum Bulk Storage (PBS) regulatory program is designed to prevent petroleum spills threatening the environment and the public. In the Edelstein case, a landlord ignored New York State laws and put residents at risk, but thanks to the well-crafted storage and handling requirements, inspection program and enforcement procedures of the PBS program the violations were identified.”

Attorney General Schneiderman’s complaint details the 90 violations of state PBS laws by Edelstein – the owner and chief executive officer of Edel Family Management Corporation, located at 2207 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn – that DEC found at the properties. Among other violations, the properties were cited for failing to accurately register storage tanks with the state, failing to properly label tanks, gauges, and fill ports, failing to maintain spill prevention equipment and records of monthly tank inspections. These requirements individually, and in combination, are important to preventing spills related to the handling and storage of oil. 

According to the complaint, DEC investigators uncovered a pattern of PBS violations at Edelstein’s buildings in April and May of 2013. When Edelstein rejected the agency’s offer to resolve the violations by settlement, DEC brought an administrative enforcement action which resulted in a July 18 order by the DEC Commissioner. The agency assessed a civil penalty of $113,500 and ordered her to correct all 90 violations, both within 30 days. Although Edelstein did not challenge the DEC order, she has failed to pay the penalty or correct the PBS violations as ordered.  

In the suit, Attorney General Schneiderman asks the court to order Edelstein to: 

  • correct all 90 PBS violations, as directed by DEC;
  • pay the penalty assessed by DEC; and
  • pay additional penalties, as determined by the court for flouting the DEC administrative order. 

Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the DEC for its assistance in this matter. 

The suit was filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday. The court papers can be found here

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew J. Gershon. The Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Lemuel M. Srolovic. The bureau is overseen by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel. DEC Assistant Regional Attorney John Urda assisted in the case.