Thursday, January 18, 2018

Illegal conversion could lead to a 7-year prison sentence

From CBS 2:

The insatiable demand for affordable housing in New York City at times creates an illegal supply of rentals.

Now, for the second time in five years, a Queens man has been charged with illegally converting a single-family home into a multi-unit dwelling.

On first glance, it’s not clear why the home in Elmhurst would need three satellite TV dishes. A resident insisted there was nothing illegal happening there.

“No illegal conversion,” the man who didn’t wish to be identified told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. When asked if they’d allow a camera crew in for a look, the resident claimed “it’s not a perfect day today.”

It certainly proved to be a bad day for the owners, 53-year-old Segundo Chimbay and his wife, 52-year-old Maria Chimbay. The Queens District Attorney charged them with illegally converting the home on forlay street into five small apartments, including one in the attic and one in the cellar.

Authorities say at one point fifteen people lived there, all of them sharing one kitchen on the first floor. Rents were between $750 and $1,400 a month, according to authorities. The Chimbays also allegedly told renters to ignore the vacate order placed on the front door.


Res Ipsa said...

I wonder how they picked this house. In Elmhurst and many parts of NYC, this is business as usual. Is the City finally going to crack down on this? I bet they won't.

(sarc) said...

See, we fixed the problem.

Now let us move on...

georgetheatheist said...

I don't get it.

So much beautiful spacious living being built in Long Island City and these people have to cram themselves into a single house in Elmhurst?

I'm sure Borough President Katz will address this peculiar dilemma next week at her State of the Borough.

georgetheatheist said...

PS Also known, by the cognoscenti, as "The State of the Shithole: A Tale of Two Boroughs"

Izayoi said...

Cracking down on this one case is like the Knicks after they have a winning percantage over 500. One win and the season is over. The rest of conversion hell in Elmhurst and Flushing will probably be left alone. Their work here is "done".

Anonymous said...

Why can't they do it in bayside here? Its so ridiculous. If you see 4 water meters and 4 mailboxes on the house, then its not so hard to guess that it is an illegal conversion.
My brother and sister in law were looking to buy a house around bayside/flushing and they went into this one house and saw about 20 people living in the house and there were people still sleeping in a bed in a room as big as a closet. They said they couldn't leave the house any faster! The city should do something about this but of course that is just a dream!

Anonymous said...

Check all of Flushing, Bayside, Corona, Jackson Heights, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Briarwood, Elmhurst, Woodside, etc . It's happening EVERYWHERE!

Anonymous said...

The prison industry needs new customers.

Anonymous said...

DoB "cracks down" on one and makes sure their effort is well publicized... except this is a crappy effort: "ignore the vacate order" means the vacate order wasn't enforced. You want enforcement, get the FDNY. They take this seriously: conversions mean walls were put in, which endangers firefighters and residents alike.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Enforcement acted on a complaint or tip from 2016. I imagine multiple surveillances were conducted.

Anonymous said...

The mayor and his cohorts do not want to stop illegal housing in the boroughs, it will add to the homeless problem.
The mayor claimed to fund about 85,500 homes last year. If so, why is there a homeless crisis?

TommyR said...

@Res_Ipsa: Chimbay is guilty of doing this back in 2013, too. That's how they knew to scrutinize what he was up to again:

40-33 Forley Street is Elmhurst, now? I suppose, based on nearby PS 89's designation. But I'd actually consider it on the border of Jackson Heights, that's just splitting hairs though. Anyway, much as I value privacy, Chimbay's a greedy bastard, so he's not really entitled to it (the following is all available online anyway); so, this is his building...:

Now it's easier for readers to skip any kind of critical thinking and just go, "This Chimbay dude is a greedy landlord, case closed", and while that's true, it's more valuable understand what factors promoted this in the first place:

1. this is a place that was built in 1930 and reportedly sold for $750,000 to Chimbay's wife in 2006. While the lot is 30x97, the actual building (at 2.75s) is just 22x32, ~1408 sq ft (ignoring the ¾ of a story). Which, to me, is a gross over-payment of money for the enormous downside of sharing a wall with your neighbor in a duplex.

2. Chimbay allegedly tried to get away with this before, and was put on probation (2013, see NYT article above).

3. NYC values the property (probably because of the proximity to the 7 among other things, and just because so many lots are insanely over-valued) at at a whopping 975,000 for the 2017-2018 period (it was actually lowered by 15k for the period thereafter, interestingly). FUCKING ONE MILLION dollars for this place? RI-fucking-diculous.

4. The most important part - what's Chimbay paying in property taxes? Last bill is $5,400.04 (gotta love that four ¢ extra) a year. That's also fucking nuts.

5. Now none of the above justifies what Chimbay did. But it goes a fair way towards explaining why he would've been motivated to do so. The thing is, lots of home-owners in Elm and throughout Queens are having to do this to stay where they are. That's what rampant gentrification and speculation and damned street-trolleys do. I mentioned being surprised a neighbor down the way (legally) converting his one-family to a 2 in a QC post a few weeks ago.

It's claimed that 15 people lived there, paying out rents up to 1.4/mo. If that was the case, there's no excuses for Chimbay's behavior (he is in fact contributing to and exploiting the problem of affordable living space in a working class neighborhood). It's just pure greed. I can get taking on another family upstairs, and putting in a separate kitchen, bathroom, and gas and electric meter (like most reasonable people do), but what he did - ultimately, it's an outgrowth of City zoning, planning and policy.

If the market values are OVER INFLATED and the property taxes are ONEROUSLY HIGH - this will JUST. KEEP. HAPPENING.

When the City incentivizes "affordable" housing by giving developers multi-decade property tax abatements, small landlords (and single family homeowners, and I'm both) just get squeezed more and more. And for some unscrupulous types, this is what they end up doing. You can argue that for really greedy assholes, they'd just do it anyway, but it's inarguable that the tax situation creates a perverse pressure to try to convert to offset that quarterly bill. Especially when it goes up year over year without any justifiable, tangible improvements to substantiate it.

Anonymous said...

Put em on the street

Anonymous said...

So stupid and greedy..they could have shared 1 cable account with multiple boxes.

Come to Flooshing, every house has an illegal basement apartment!

Anonymous said...

Come to Flushing and Bayside please !

rikki said...

HAHA this what happens when home prices skyrocket because of SUPER LOW interest need illegal apartments to cover the monthly costs.

Joe Moretti said...

Who in their right mind would pay that kind of rent (which is extremely high for NY standards) to live in a single home with tons of other people and one kitchen. Probably two bathroom at the most, maybe.

The owner is a scumbag regardless of taxes and the city, especially DOB, is a major scumbug for continually allowing this shit to happen. I mean, this happened in the past and nothing was done with this scumbag couple. AND why just this one, there is at least two on every block in ghetto third world Queens. AND what about our wonderful douche bag Queens BP, Katz, I mean this is a major quality of life issue and dangerous. Funny, shit head Katz has been pretty much absent for the past 6 months.


Anonymous said...


Don't forget MASPETH!!!!

Anonymous said...

Where were NYPD when people were openly living in a house with a VACATE
ORDER on it?

This is what happens with illegal aliens. Deport them all.

ron s said...

Echoing the thoughts above---why this house? There are thousands of illegal conversions. My block alone probably has 20. Why do they act like "We have detected an illegal conversion! Aren't we amazing! Let's crack down on one of 50,000!"

TommyR said...

>Don't forget MASPETH!!!!

When COMET finds squatters and illegal conditions, we call it in to the NYPD, DOB, whomever, and it gets way or the other. Maspeth sets itself apart - the place may take the the City's garbage, but people there don't take crap!

AFAIK, Maspeth has to have one of the lowest incidences of this sort of pattern, significantly in part because so many homes here are still single-family occupied, often through multiple generations. The part of Elm where I live that borders Maspeth is much the same. While that hasn't stopped multi-family units from going up around here, since they're going up regardless, they may as well go up in buildings actually meant by design for multiple families, which at present is mostly 3-6 families, and fortunately, are in new homes that simply look "a little larger".

There's a good example of this sort of harmony right across from the Crowley Playground on 57th, and on 58th Ave by Frontera Park. That street in particular has some very nice large old manses across from new construction, the later of which at only 2.5 stories looks neither out of place nor looms over its neighbors. Ideally, that's how most of new development in Queens should advance: many new low-rise homes accommodating 3 - 4 families, as opposed to trying to shove towers everywhere.

Culturally, Poles, Italians, and the newcomer Asians in the area who came looking for single familiy homes hereabouts have little tolerance for crowding. Hence it gets reported. In Maspeth ironically it's probably because so many homes were on a small shared duplex lots to begin with - when you don't have that much space comparatively (vs say Bayside or Hollis lots) you're going to be MUCH more diligent about combating anything that encroaches on it. Similarly here in my pocket of Newtown where the lots are larger and more spaced out owing to its farmland origins, existing residents have no interest in seeing that ruined by illegal conversions.

As you get into the heart of Elmhurst, up towards the eponymous Hospital and Jackson Heights, things slide downward on this crowding scale because of the presence of mass transit, one (all the tallest apartment complex cluster around stations for obvious reasons) and two, the fact that those areas will always meant to be denser going back to when Samuel Lord began to develop Newtown. So it's really the fucking LIRR's fault, lol!

Ultimately this is the wheelhouse of underdogs like Paul Graziano, who has no analogue in Elmhurst, but maybe is mirrored somewhat in Holden. D. Dromm can't be called upon about this, since there wasn't enough old housing stock carried into modernity, and the ones left aren't really bunched together in way conducive to making an argument for preserving via zoning changes, as what Graziano did. Man was smart enough to have the foresight to fight for preservation BEFORE development came knocking.

Queens never has been and never will be a monolith. It was always a collection of towns and villages. Metaphorically and in some cases, still literally, it still is. Because of that, you will see some places welcome changes with open arms, and then get steam-rolled, while other areas will always push back, seem stand-off'ish or inhospitable, but they remain pleasantly unchanged.


Look, I can name neighborhoods too, s'wot? It happens everywhere, but there's a vast difference between a family member having a room in a converted attic or basement, versus charging 15 people for one floor.

Anonymous said...

1 down, 100,000 to go.