Lawsuits follow Wall Hunters Project
Two limited liability companies associated with Stanley Rochkind are suing Slumlord Watch founder Carol Ott. The suits, filed in District Court on Dec. 4 but not yet served on Ott, demand a total of $5,000 in damages for repairs made to two properties after murals were installed on them earlier this year, according to Ott, who says she became aware of the suits yesterday and took a look at them this morning. "He's suing for the repaint," Ott says. A call to Brian Spern, the lawyer suing Ott on behalf of NB2 and SS3 Business Trust, was not immediately returned. Ott began blogging about Baltimore's vacant buildings in 2009 and developed a devoted following by calling out landlords and city officials. In 2013 she partnered with the non-profit Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. and renamed the project Housing Policy Watch to expand the effort. Separately, last summer she joined several graffiti artists in a project, called "Wall Hunters," that garnered national attention. Two of the buildings painted controlled by Rochkind and his family, which owns many buildings in the city. One of Rochkind's employees claimed one of the murals, depicting the Exodus, was anti-Semitic. He also told a Baltimore Sun reporter that Rochkind did not own the building it was painted on, 4727 Old York Rd. Land records indicate that the Rochkinds control the trust in which NB2 Business Trust—which owns the building—was placed, however. "So it's like, really dude? You already lied about not owning," Ott says. "It speaks to his character." Rochkind and his lawyers sought to avail themselves to the legal rights of property ownership while insulating themselves from the responsibilities in a lead paint lawsuit as well. This month the Maryland Court of Appeals rejected that argument. [Update: the Rochkind section is two-thirds down] SS3 Business Trust owns 539 N. Longwood Street, on which an artist calling himself LNY installed a mural, apparently after speaking to a tenant. City Paper spoke to the same tenant, Shawniece Smith (pictured above), for our story on the project. "In the lawsuit it says I directed the people to go to those particular properties, which is not how it worked," says Ott. "I didn't do any of the actual painting. I think on the second property on, I think, Longwood Street, I was up in Pennsylvania" when the mural was painted.