The Associated Press reports on a shady industry that has popped up as part of New York City’s affordable housing crisis, where landlords hire “tenant relocation specialists” to intimidate rent-stabilized tenants into moving out so the landlords can rent the apartments at market rate. Market rate in some neighborhoods has increased by 90% since 2002, which is great for landlords but a nightmare for renters.

Tenant relocation specialists’ mafia-esque tactics include stalking, threatening, and even pressuring renters’ loved ones into helping them convince the renter to leave. Shawn Dahl, who filed a lawsuit against her landlord and a tenant relocation specialist named Anthony Falconite who tried get her out of her rent-stabilized East Village apartment, told the AP:

“Dahl said former police officer Anthony Falconite made a series of intimidating moves: blocking a doorway when she tried to shut him out, needlessly waiting by her parked car on the street and helping the landlord approach her estranged girlfriend, unsuccessfully, about taking money to give up their rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan’s East Village.”

Falconite’s attorney says that he didn’t do anything illegal, but Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote in a letter to Falconite that he “believed he was working to relocate tenants by berating and browbeating them.” Schneiderman fined and suspended another relocator, named Michel Pimienta, last year for using similar tactics.

City lawmakers are considering ways to protect tenants from aggressive relocators, such as prohibiting buyout offers if tenants declare they’re not interested and making relocators obtain special licenses.

(Photo: Wally Gobetz)