Abandoned Sunset Park Police Station Is a Magnet for Crime, Neighbors Say

By Alan Neuhauser on May 29, 2012 9:25am 

The former police station at 4302 Fourth Ave., built in 1886, was hailed as an example of architecture that exudes civic power.
The former police station at 4302 Fourth Ave., built in 1886, was hailed as an example of architecture that exudes civic power.
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

SUNSET PARK — An abandoned police station that was designated a city landmark for its castle-like architecture has fallen into such disrepair that it has become a magnet for crime and a symbol of neighborhood blight, officials and neighbors charged.

Built in 1886, the former stationhouse at the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue and 43rd Street served as the headquarters of Sunset Park's police for 84 years. But in the last decade, the Romanesque Revival building and nearby stable have racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fines for dangerous "bent" and "rotting" scaffolding, expired work permits and other problems, officials said.

It has also attracted unsavory characters who frequent the building, where cars parked outside have also been broken into, locals claimed.

"It's truly a shame, because it's a beautiful building," said Yasko Yoshida, 37, who lives next door to the former precinct station and owns Eclipse Restaurant on the ground floor. "It affects business. It hurts the visibility. As it is, we don't have much foot traffic."

The building owners — the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, a Sunset Park nonprofit that provides free and low-cost classes, youth programs and social services for local residents — have been fined at least $65,000 for the ailing conditions since 2001, according to the city’s Department of Buildings.

Owners were also hit with a violation by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in April 2011 for "failure to maintain the building," LPC spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said.

De Bourbon added that the commission’s enforcement division plans to "make another site visit, and, if appropriate, issue a second violation."

The Brooklyn Chinese-American Association's website lists the former precinct as a "Landmark Community Center," but officials from the organization declined to comment.

The stationhouse and stable have been vacant since 1970, when officers and operations were moved to a new building on 29th Street. It changed hands at least four times between the city and private owners until it was purchased in 1999 by the Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, which shares an address with the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association.

The former stationhouse is now surrounded by a rotten sidewalk shed, rusting chain link fences and barbed wire.
The former stationhouse is now surrounded by a rotten sidewalk shed, rusting chain link fences and barbed wire.
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

Of the 28 violations issued against the property, 22 remain open, DOB spokeswoman Ryan Fitzgibbon said. A $5,000 stop-work order is also in effect.

The violations range from a $10,000 citation issued in July 2009 for the scaffolding’s "rotten" and "bent" beams, to a $2,400, Class-1 "Immediately Hazardous" citation issued in February 2009 for "failure to safeguard all persons and property affected by construction operations," according to city records.

An official at Rock Scaffold, the contractor that erected the sidewalk shed, said in a telephone interview that the company has renewed its permits for the shed.

DOB records, however, show that the renewal application was not completed and that the permit remains expired.

Local residents said that they have also complained to the police, claiming the building has become a magnet for crime and vagrants.

"Young guys go inside there in the evening. We don't know what they do," said Daach Fong, 67, a retired health food store clerk who lives in an apartment building on 43rd Street just two doors from the former precinct.

"Police go in sometimes and check, but only sometimes," Fong added, noting that cars parked on 43rd Street outside the former precinct have been broken into overnight.

NYPD sources said they did not have a figure for the number of times officers have responded to calls at or near the property.

Fong’s neighbor, retired construction worker Stefan Zilinsky, 62, said that the former precinct attracts more than just crime.

"There are cockroaches, cockroaches, cockroaches," he said. "They’re everywhere. It’s very dirty."

Brooklyn Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Lauffer sees the former precinct every morning when he heads to work, as it stands just across the street from the board’s office.

"It's an eyesore, and people are upset with what's happening with the building," he said.

"It's a beautiful building that's falling apart. I just want to see it put back to use. I don’t want to see it fall down."

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