EXCLUSIVE: A hostel situation on Ovington Avenue

Residents on Ovington Avenue are charging that developer Mousa Khalil not only allowed a house to collapse on their block, but is running an illegal hostel in another home he owns, to boot.

Khalil owns three properties on the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, 552, 556 and 562. After 552 partially collapsed in the middle of the night on July 16, neighbors said they had suspicions that 556 was serving as a hostel.

“It’s a disgrace. There are taxicabs pulling up in the middle of the night, and guys coming in and out of the house with suitcases,” said Gloria Mullaney, a lifelong resident of the block who also lives next to 562. She said there are often discarded, dirty mattresses in the front yard and that people are often in the back yard.

“I am afraid of my own house being robbed. I never know who is in the back yard,” she told this paper. “I want security and I don’t have it anymore. Even if I wanted to sell my house, I couldn’t. When my grandkids come over, they think it’s a haunted house.”

It is not clear if the house, which is shrouded with trees, is inhabited or uninhabited. There are curtains blocking light from coming in the first floor windows and they are marked with X’s in duct tape. But, the front security door was unlocked and there was no doorbell or even door handle. A mop and bucket were on the porch, but not much else.

One neighbor walking his dog who wished to remain anonymous, said that Khalil makes the house appear condemned – hence the duct tape on the windows – but that there are squatters living there.

Khalil is no stranger to controversy. He reportedly operated a hostel out of one of his properties on 94th Street and was busted for that by the city’s Department of Buildings in 2010. DOB’s online records for that property state, “Five open violations dating back to 2010.” Violation on September 22, 2010 states, “Illegal use as hostel throughout. 40 beds, 20@second floor, 10@first floor, 10@cellar. Occupancy is student.”

DOB records have no certificates of occupancy on file for 556 Ovington and the property has two open violations – both given on July 16, the day of the 552 collapse – for “working without a permit.” It also has one open complaint for “failure to maintain,” also issued on July 16.

“Your newspaper’s inquiry has brought this to our attention and we are contacting the necessary authorities including DOB and the police to investigate this location and the possible existence of a hostel,” said John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff for State Senator Marty Golden.

“556 Ovington is another Mousa Khalil property and when it comes to Mr. Khalil, nothing surprises us anymore,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who added that he is meeting with Khalil this week and this property is one of the many they will be discussing. “It is our hope to untangle the web Mr. Khalil has spun in this community once and for all.”

Neighbors said they just want peace of mind.

“I have lived here all of my life and have never seen it like this,” Mullaney said. “I just want to live calmly in my house.”

Khalil could not be reached for comment by press time.

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