From the Village Voice:
This house, at 42-40 65th Street in Woodside, had been inspected twice by Buildings Department inspectors -- in 1990 and in 2004 -- in response to complaints that there were "extra rooms" in the basement. Inspectors did not find violations on either occasion...
The public has good reason to be skeptical of the inspectors' findings. From 2002 to the present, the city's Department of Investigations has arrested 37 Buildings Department employees on a variety of corruption charges (including bribe receiving, extortion, fraud, theft of government property, falsifying records and enterprise corruption) and 215 individuals who had fraudulent business dealings with the DOB. Earlier this fall, prosecutors arrested six people and accused the agency of being infiltrated by the mob.
From the Queens Gazette:
“All New Yorkers should pause and say a prayer for those who lost their lives in this horrible fire and for a speedy recovery for those injured,” City Councilmember Eric Gioia, in whose 26th Council District the fire occurred, said on November 8. “Once again, New York's lack of affordable housing has led to tragedy with families forced to cram themselves into dangerous illegal conversions and building owners willing to compromise safety for profit. Illegal conversions are dangerous, not only for tenants, but for firefighters who must fight blazes in buildings with unexpected barriers. To prevent tragedies like this from happening again, identifying illegal conversions and holding landlords accountable needs to be a priority for the city.”
Spoken like someone with a history of advocating for upzonings and developer tax breaks that have actually made NYC less affordable for the rest of us.
From the Queens Courier:
Illegal apartments, potential deathtraps like this one, exist all over Queens. Something must be done to discover them, report them and put the greedy landlords out of business before more innocent “tenants” die or firefighters perish fighting blazes in buildings like this one.
Perhaps the postal carriers could report multiple mail recipients at addresses that should only have one or two families. Maybe the water department could report a jump in the use of water at illegally-converted houses. Utility giant Con Edison, which meters gas and electricity use in these homes from year to year, could report sizeable jumps in usage at illegally-converted dwellings.
Neighbors could call in and report numerous “tenants” living next door or down the block.
Other agencies like the Fire Department, Police Department, Post Office and Sanitation Departments could help inspect suspected sites before the Buildings Department is called to issue its summons and close down the building by revoking its Certificate of Occupancy.
Until the city responds to this urgent problem, we urge you to report suspected illegally converted houses to Buildings Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri at Executive Offices, 280 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10007 or call the Building Department at 212-566-5000.
Let us declare war on illegal dwelling in our borough.
How about newspapers that run ads for illegal apartments with "gas and electric included" and houses with "full-finished" basements? Are you in favor of that as well? 'Cause you may want to take a look at the real estate section of your papers website...
Going forward, the borough president says she hopes to combat the number of illegally converted residences in Queens. "I reorganized my illegal conversion task force, that's what I've done. And I bring city agencies in; everybody's got to pitch in and help us with this."
You mean there was such a thing as an illegal conversion task force? What did they ever accomplish?