A number of people have been displaced after city officials issued an immediate vacate order on an illegally converted home in Dyker Heights on Thursday evening, June 22.
The property – 1317 73rd Street – was one of four sites initially reported by local residents that were visited Thursday evening by the city’s illegal conversions task force which, sources say, were able to gain access to the building and deem its living conditions an “immediately hazardous situation.”
According to a source who was at the scene, the property’s basement “was all chopped up [to create living quarters for its residents] with the exit from the basement in the front of the house sealed off.” In addition, the source said, the property’s driveway was lined with buckets, presumably being used by residents to relieve themselves as the basement had only two bathrooms.
Upon arrival, a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings (DOB) told this paper, inspectors observed an illegally constructed apartment in the cellar of the property with its own unpermitted gas and plumbing lines. The agency issued a vacate order “due to a lack of two means of egress, the illegal gas lines and insufficient ventilation in the apartment.”
According to DOB officials, five people were determined to be living in the basement unit of the building, all of whom were offered relocation assistance by the American Red Cross. The apartments on the first or second floor of the building did not need vacating.
Locals were quick to praise the task force, which, since its inception, has been making rounds like this on a weekly basis.
“From a personal and a professional [standpoint], it was so rewarding to see the task force in action because nobody should be living like that,” noted local resident and City Council candidate John Quaglione.
Quaglione, current aide to State Senator Marty Golden, was on the scene, along with the New York City Fire Department, DOB, and task force members.
“It’s a danger to everybody,” he said. “It’s a danger to the emergency workers. Our schools are being overcrowded at enormous rates. Our parking [is even worse] because some of these houses that used to have two to three cars, now they have five or six. It’s a vicious cycle.”
Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone, who lives just up the block from the site, shared similar sentiments on the site, which was not new to her.
“This is one that we’ve reported before,” she explained, “so it’s not surprising that there was a raid there because there should’ve been one already.
“I think that this brings to the forefront the problem that we’re facing with these illegal home conversions and how dangerous they can be,” she went on, stressing that illegal conversions are a threat not only to their residents but to the surrounding community as a whole.
“I’m glad that the task force that we have set up with the city is working and operating,” Vella-Marrone said. “I’m happy to see that they – along with the Buildings Department and the Fire Department and all other agencies involved – were able to attack this situation and that, ultimately, the matter that exists at that location will be corrected, because we need that to happen.”
This site in particular, Vella-Marrone said, was “deplorable.”
Quaglione credited not only the task force, but also all the other acting agencies, as well as local advocates like Vella-Marrone, Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, Anthony Ceretti and President of the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance Bob Cassara for their continued championing of the fight against illegal conversions.
“They all have really made this their issue,” said Quaglione. “They brought it to the point where it’s not just being talked about, it’s being acted on – through legislation and with enforcement.”
Though, the fight is far from over, according to Vella-Marrone.
“For this one raid that you see, I can point to several of them in the community that are existing, I’m sure, in the same condition,” she said. “It’s just a very difficult problem that we’re dealing with and that the city has to take control of.”
Earlier this year, another Dyker Heights home was issued a full vacate order after 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.
Thursday night’s raid comes less than a month after Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the Aggravated Illegal Conversion Bill, which could help curb illegal conversions in the neighborhoods they plague by increasing penalties on those who incite them.