Building collapse at Ovington Avenue

The nightmare that some Ovington Avenue residents have worried about for years finally has become a reality.

Around 3 a.m. on Monday, July 16, the vacant building owned by developer Mousa Khalil at 552 Ovington Avenue collapsed. No one was injured but those living in the adjoining houses were forced to evacuate.

Khalil – who has been reported to have neglected his properties — owns three dilapidated buildings on the block, 552, 556 and 562, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, as well as numerous other properties around Bay Ridge. Neighbors say the properties are disasters waiting to happen.

The Department of Buildings (DOB) website lists three open DOB and two open Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations on the building which collapsed. The most recent DOB violation, on June 8, was for an “unsafe building.”

In addition, the ECB violation from the same date documents, “Failure to maintain bldg. in a code compliant manner. Defects noted: At roof large holes and open to the elements, 2nd flr 85% collapsed into the 1st floor due to lack of maintenance and open to the elements.” The condition of the building was classified as “immediately hazardous” in June when the violation was written.

These were not new problems. An earlier DOB violation, dating to August, 2006, notes, “Section of exterior façade located on the south-east corner missing, exposing front structure beam. Front porch roof, ceiling are decomposing and rotten. Remedy: Maintain building and make all necessary repairs or replacements.”

Local architect Bob HuDock noted that, “Once a building is open to the elements, water can come in and rot things very quickly, so once you have a hole in the roof, deterioration speeds up.”

“This has been waiting to happen for how many years?” commented Gerard Farnen, who lives two doors away from the collapsed house. “Everyone on the block has complained, to the Department of Buildings and to local politicians, but nothing has been done.”

His son, Chris Farnen, said he heard a loud noise in the middle of the night that he thought was due to the storm outside. “It sounded like a crack of thunder, but it wasn’t,” he said.

Gloria Mullaney lives right next to 562 Ovington and fears that it is the next to fall.

“Every time it rains, I think it will come down,” she said, adding that she has lived in the house since was nine years old. “Everyone has been taking bets on when it will fall down. Hopefully now they will be able to fix it.”

Bianca Orecchio, who lives a few houses down from the properties, added, “You don’t feel comfortable walking down your own block.”

Victoria Hofmo, founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy echoed the neighbors’ concerns. “We have been concerned about the properties he [Khalil] bought, how he let them go and how it has impacted the community,” she said. “We tried to do preventive things. Why does the city allow someone to warehouse apartments and not do anything to preserve them?”

Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann said that Khalil’s contractor is going to demolish the house at some point today, with the approval of DOB. “Many people on the block are certainly upset and they are not happy that they have this community eyesore,” she commented. “At this point we are here now and the immediate problem is being addressed.

Calls have been made to DOB and Khalil.

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