More than 30 Dyker Heights residents were displaced over the weekend after city officials raided and placed an immediate vacate order on their illegally converted home.
Upon arrival Thursday evening, August 4, FDNY and Department of Buildings (DOB) inspectors found that a two-family house at 6705 Seventh Avenue had been subdivided into a five-family dwelling. Riddled with safety hazards that ranged from lack of egress, or exits, to compromised plumbing, electrical and gas work, to extreme overcrowding, the home was deemed unfit for its tenants, who were subsequently forced out of the building.
The American Red Cross was left to relocate the displaced residents – 18 adults and 13 children – to a nearby Days Inn for up to three days. At the end of those three days, finding those tenants new housing becomes the responsibility of the city.
The raid came just days after District Attorney Ken Thompson charged a Brooklyn landlord with manslaughter following a fatal Flatbush fire that killed one and displaced more than 20 in 2014. Earlier this summer, a group of elected officials banded together outside of 928 Bay Ridge Parkway – just one of many suspected illegal conversions in the area – to join Councilmember Vincent Gentile in introducing new legislation aimed at combating the citywide issue, and creating new criteria from which to act on it.
“We simply cannot afford to continue to put the safety of vulnerable individuals, our neighborhoods, and our communities at risk,” said Gentile, whose bill – LS 4115 – would establish a brand new type of violation titled “Aggravated Illegal Conversion,” and target “bad-actor” landlords. “If my bill were law today, the bad actor landlord would be fined $15,000 per each unit beyond the certificate of occupancy and if unpaid, the fine would be subject to a lien sale on the property among additional regulations.
“We know that this case is likely one of many in my district and citywide,” the local pol went on. “Time is of the essence for this viral developer scheme to be put to an end. My patience is running short as residents, many of who are immigrants, continue to be put in grave danger unbeknownst to them. From there, a negative domino effect ensues, degrading the quality of life for the neighborhood as schools become overcrowded and city services become overwhelmed.”
According to local resident and President of the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance Bob Cassara, 448 illegal home conversions were reported in Community Board 10 (encompassing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton) for the year 2015.