A Dyker Heights home has been issued a full vacate order after Department of Buildings (DOB) officials found that it had been illegally converted from a two-family home to an eight-family home, housing just over two dozen people.
An initial complaint, logged onto the DOB database on Tuesday, January 3, stated that the home – located at 1178 65th Street – was a “two family house, turned into a six family house with 30 people living there.” However, upon inspection by the Building Marshals Office two days later, the residence was found to have “illegal gas and electrical work at the location, and [it was] determined that the two-family home was illegally converted into an eight-family residence,” according to a DOB spokesperson.
President of the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance Bob Cassara says that the vigilant actions of neighbors and concerned residents who continue to file complaints with the DOB, local officials and a recently started Agency Task Force, aid the city in combating illegal conversions.
“The fact that credible information is being supplied from the community is the reason we’re able to get a lot of this done,” said Cassara who, in 2015, helped form the Agency Task Force – which focuses on combating the proliferation of illegal home conversions in Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge. “[Residents] are making these complaints to DOB, and sending us complaints or going to a councilmember or community board and if the information that’s being supplied is credible, [DOB] acts on it.”
According to the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance, of the 448 illegally converted homes reported in Community Board 10 in 2015, the DOB was able to access 246 homes, a 25 percent increase from 2014. Where the DOB got access, 35.6 percent of the homes were issued code violations; an increase from 19.7 percent in 2014. Overall, since 2014, there has been a 300 percent increase in vacate orders for the two neighborhoods.
Illegal conversion complaints for the 65th Street residence date back to at least 2005, as outlined in the DOB online database, along with other violations for unlicensed/illegal/improper work. A complaint logged in 2010 even accused the owner of creating a driveway in the backyard.
According to neighbors who spoke to Cassara, police were on the premises early Friday morning, January 6 escorting occupants out of the home, located directly across from I.S. 187, the Christa McAuliffe School.
“This is yet another case of greedy landlords putting their residents’ safety at risk for maximum profit,” noted Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who has authored legislation whose goal is to curtail the proliferation of illegal conversions. “Simply put: A two-family home converted into an eight-family home is immediately hazardous to the residents of the building, the surrounding community and first responders. My aggravated illegal conversion legislation (Intro 1218) seeks to deter this housing scheme proliferation by imposing heavy fines and equipping DOB with more effective tools of enforcement to combat the issue.”
“The vacate order issued today to address dangerous overcrowding at 1178 65th Street sends a powerful message to building owners who exploit families by creating unsafe and substandard living conditions,” said District Manager of Community Board 10 Josephine Beckmann. “What I find most disturbing is the danger that tenants are often times unknowingly placed in by greedy property owners. Today’s action by the New York City Building’s Department will hopefully restore this property to its legal use and assist residents in obtaining apartments that provide safe and legal living conditions.”
According to a DOB spokesperson, “all affected residents were given relocation assistance by the American Red Cross, which registered 26 tenants affected by the vacate order.”
Additionally, DOB conducted its annual Living Safely Campaign last month – a multi-lingual, citywide outreach program aimed at informing New Yorkers about the dangers of illegally converted living spaces.
Additional reporting contributed by Meaghan McGoldrick