A city program to convert deteriorating Brooklyn tenements into rehabbed affordable apartments failed big-time, with most of the buildings now abandoned and controlled by a convicted felon, a stunning new report has found.
The report by Public Advocate Letitia James, to be released Monday, found that after 13 years, 17 of the targeted 26 Crown Heights buildings remain a decrepit mess. Pigeons roost in doorways. Windows remain bricked over. Graffiti-scarred doors are boarded up. Squatters have moved in.
The current owner of these squalid eyesores, a for-profit entity called Heights Houses, is run by George Armstrong, a developer who participated in the biggest bribery scandal of the Bloomberg administration.
Armstrong pleaded guilty to bribery charges in October 2011, admitting that to win work with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, he paid off top department official Wendell Walters. Walters is the highest-ranking member of the Bloomberg team convicted of corruption, and Armstrong’s involvement in that case has been public for more than four years.
Nevertheless, Housing Preservation and Development has yet to take any steps to cut off ties to Heights Houses, which continues to own 17 buildings meant for rehab, James’ report revealed.
All of this has occurred as the value of properties in the surrounding neighborhood has skyrocketed, buffeted by a wave of gentrification spreading east over the past decade across Brooklyn.