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Notorious landlord dumping properties

Steven Green, who is known for the many code violations at his apartment complexes, has sold eight of them.

Published June 10, 2006

TAMPA - One of Tampa's most notorious and shrewd landlords has been busy unloading many of his local properties.

In recent months, companies owned by New York real estate investor Steven Green, which have been cited for hundreds of health and safety violations, have sold eight Tampa apartment complexes for a total of nearly $100-million.

Green, 43, also appears poised to sell his 6,990-square-foot Hyde Park mansion to prominent Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen for $4.2-million.

"I don't think there's any rhyme or reason as to why" he sold so many properties recently, said Green's attorney, Glenn Goldberg. "He's a good businessman. Now is a good time to sell. Real estate is hot."

Goldberg declined to say whether Green plans to rid himself of the remaining dozen or so local apartment complexes his companies own, but he didn't dismiss the possibility.

"Mr. Green will entertain offers on any properties that he owns, anywhere in the country, not just here in Tampa," he said.

Green did not return a call seeking comment.

The latest properties each sold for $3-million to $35-million. Some are aging structures that house mostly low-income tenants. They include complexes such as Westport Commons in east Tampa, which, like other Green properties, has come under scrutiny in the past.

Last year, Tampa code inspectors found scores of violations at Westport Commons, including faulty plumbing, broken windows, mildew, cracked and damaged walls, broken air conditioners, rodents and trash, such as mattresses and auto parts, strewn about the grounds. Of 134 apartments, only 28 passed inspection. Sixteen were declared unfit for human habitation.

Green has encountered such troubles before. He once was listed among New York's 10 worst landlords and still holds the record for the highest fines ever issued by Hillsborough County code enforcement, $1.3-million.

In fact, the county never collected all code enforcement fines against Green's Amberwood Realty, owner of the 212-unit Amberwood Apartments in Temple Terrace that closed in 2002 after inspectors found more than 500 violations. Green's company defaulted on the $9.04-million mortgage on Amberwood, and the property was sold to a South Florida investment group in 2003.

South Florida investor Frank Rosen heads the company that recently bought Westport Commons for more than $4.5-million. He said he has put aside $350,000 for repairs - new roofs, repainting, ceramic tiling, security gate fixes - and might spend as much as $500,000. He also said he will raise rents and try to make Westport a nicer place to live.

"I'm not a Steve Green," said Rosen, whose group owns low-income apartment complexes across the state. "We take pride in what we do. We're hands-on. We don't sit in some office in New York and let the apartments become a slum."

Green's companies sold three other complexes, at a price tag of more than $28-million, to a Coral Cables company known as 5th Avenue Apartments Ltd. The manager of that group is Constantine Scurtis, brother-in-law of New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who has invested in several other area apartment complexes.

The remaining properties Green sold went to investment companies in Florida and Georgia. The largest single purchase was $35-million for the Preserve at Mobbly Bay, a collection of upscale apartments in Town 'N Country.

As for Green's brick mansion in Hyde Park, he bought the five-bedroom, 31/2-bath home on S Delaware Avenue in June 2000 for $1.45-million. Cohen, vacationing in Maine this week, confirmed he has signed a contract to buy the home for $4.2-million, with closing tentatively scheduled for mid June.

"It's a great house," said Cohen, who lives in Tierra Verde in Pinellas County. "It's a beautiful place. It has neat rooms. It's a hundred years old, very traditional."

Of the ballroom on the home's third floor, Cohen said he might convert it to a basketball court for his son, who is 5.

"It will be a great space for him and the dog," Cohen said.

The fact that Green has been scaling back his Tampa properties doesn't mean he has stopped investing - or causing controversy - elsewhere. In Bronxville, N.Y., his proposal to renovate a former storage warehouse into an office building with four apartments has drawn criticism from locals.

Last year, Green's companies purchased a slew of apartment complexes in Clarksville, Tenn., and quickly angered contractors and suppliers, who said he didn't pay them for their work. Several took out liens against his properties.

That's not much different from Tampa, where various vendors have placed liens on Green's properties over the years. Most recently, a Tampa painting company claimed in May that one of Green's apartment complexes, Hunter's Pointe Apartments off Sligh Avenue, owes nearly $240,000 in unpaid bills.

[Last modified June 10, 2006, 05:35:02]

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