2004-09-16 / Front Page


By Nicole G. Ray

Side entrance to this Clarendon Road home leads to basement apartment, which, owner says, has been there for decades but is unused.                       Charles RogersSide entrance to this Clarendon Road home leads to basement apartment, which, owner says, has been there for decades but is unused. Charles Rogers Following complaints from several Canarsie and East Flatbush homeowners about New York City Department of Buildings inspectors unexpectedly appearing at their homes to issue violations for illegal apartments, State As-semblyman Nick Perry hosted a Town Hall meeting last Thursday to address the problem.

Scores of residents came to P.S. 198 on Farragut Road to find out how they would be affected by this recent storm of summonses, while others had violations handy, determined to dispute them.

Perry, who represents portions of the affected communities, said that the number of anonymous complaints re-ceived about building violations had grown to 1,000. Perry announced that he has requested a moratorium on the ticketing until an investigation could be conducted.

An illegal conversion, according to Kenneth S. Lazar, Inter-Government and Community Affairs Liaison for Brook-lyn Department of Buildings, is the creation of a housing unit(s) that does not have city approval and appropriate permits. It typically happens when a basement or attic apartment is added to an existing one- or two-family home. It is illegal because it violates the residential zoning regulations.

Officials said the changes might place a strain on local services such as parking, transportation, waste disposal and schools, as more people now live in the area than previously projected.

“If you legally have a two-family and an inspector goes in and finds an additional stove in the basement, it might be considered a violation,” Lazar said.

“The main concern is the current condition and whether you can legalize it,” he said. Lazar noted that with the proper filing basements can be legalized into apartments while cellars and garages cannot be changed.

The problem has developed lately because most of the homeowners who have received the violations said the improper renovations were made by previous owners and should not be their responsibility.

“I don’t see why they should have to pay a summons when you did not do the work,” said Perry.

“I haven’t done a thing to the basement,” said Nemiah Soaness, a retired 73-year-old man who lives on Claren-don Road with his wife. “There is a fridge, a stove and a bathroom that were there when I bought the house 27 years ago.”

“I got a ticket for $2,500,” he said clutching the envelope, which held a violation issued by the department for occupancy contrary to that allowed by the Department of Buildings’ Certifi-cate of Occupancy regulations.

Robert Stultz, a 58-year-old retiree, said an inspector came to his house and asked his wife to see the basement, but she did not let him in.

Perry advised that those who have received a violation attend the hearing as indicated on the violation. The date can be rescheduled, if necessary, by calling the Environmental Control Board. Only first-timers will be accommodated, he said.

A fine for a first offense ranges from $800 to $2,500. Offenders will automatically be assessed the maximum if they do not attend the hearing.

Perry stressed that payment of a fine is not enough to dismiss a violation.

“The illegal condition has to be re-moved by restoring the construction to its original layout or by legalizing it if allowed by zoning laws in your area,” Lazar said.

Pearl Brome, a 51-year-old manager at a Manhattan law firm who lives on Farragut Road said, “We need to stop who is doing this vicious thing to our community.”

“Many of these complaints ended up being legitimate,” Lazar said. “We are investigating and trying to determine who is doing this.”

Lazar added that if someone should approach the homeowners and ask to fix their houses, a report should be made to their assemblyman.

“They say it’s anonymous,” Perry said. “But they have to know where it’s coming from.”

For further assistance, contact the Department of Buildings Brooklyn office at (718) 802-3693.

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