Owner of Collapsed Building Has Several Run Down Properties, Pol Charges
BAY RIDGE — The owner of a Bay Ridge building that partially collapsed Monday has a stable of properties across the neighborhood and has racked up a list of violations for letting them crumble, records show.
Mousa Khalil's building at 552 Ovington Ave. partly fell down Monday for the second time in a month. The surrounding buildings were evacuated with no injuries.
But residents and a local politician fear the problem is much bigger than just one building.
Councilman Vincent Gentile and neighbors on Ovington Avenue say landlord Mousa Khalil, 45, has amassed as many as 30 buildings in the neighborhood — and say many of them are in rundown conditions.
"This property owner, Mr. Khalil, has a history in this neighborhood of doing this, buying up property and letting it deteriorate," Gentile said. "This is not the only location where he's been a menace, so to speak, to the neighborhood."
According to city records, Khalil has racked up violations and complaints on multiple buildings across Bay Ridge, and seven of his properties went into foreclosure in January with a total of $2,344,228 in liens, according to the Brooklyn real estate blog Brownstoner.
Just down the block, at 562 Ovington St., the Department of Buildings found the roof "sagging and pulling away" on December 17, 2007, records show.
On February 27, 2010, at 7701 Ridge Boulevard, Khalil was cited for failure to maintain a collapsed garage, and neighbors complained of cinder blocks being thrown into surrounding yards.
And in the summer of 2010, Khalil was cited multiple times for turning 352 94th Street into a hostel, converting a two-family home into a series of rooms with 40 beds for students.
At 552 Ovington Ave., city inspectors filed 17 complaints and seven DOB violations since Khalil took over the property in 2004. Five violations are still open, including the two partial collapses.
On August 8, 2006, the DOB cited Khalil for "exterior defects," exposing structural violations, records show.
On January 8, 2008, a neighbor called to complain about the building's structural stability and, less than a month before Monday's collapse, the FDNY reported that the second floor of 552 Ovington Ave. collapsed onto the first floor.
At the scene of Monday's accident, Khalil, 45, expressed remorse for the disrepair.
"Honestly, if I had known that, I would've done something a long time ago," Khalil said of the building's structural problems. "I don't know how this happened."
Khalil said it has been more than five years since someone actually lived in the building. He was set to demolish it, he said, but changes in the neighborhood's zoning policy made that plan inconvenient.
"We cut the sewer line, the water line, the gas line, the electric, because we wanted to do it right away," Khalil said. "But then the zoning changed during that time and that's where we got stuck.
"Before, we could build seven apartments," he added. "Now it is not more than two apartments."
According to the Department of City Planning's website, zoning in that area changed in 2009. Previously, a building's height could be between seven and 13 stories tall, depending on certain restrictions. Now, a building in that area can have a maximum height of just 33 feet.
On Monday afternoon, while waiting for DOB crews to finally demolish 552 Ovington Ave., neighbors expressed frustration at the situation's senselessness.
"It didn't have to come to this, to get to this point," said Rita Mazzella, 41, an administrative assistant who has lived on Ovington Avenue for 15 years. "It was very dangerous, and they should have taken it down a while ago."
Councilman Gentile echoed that sentiment.
"This is a beautiful residential block," he said. "The city, beyond the fact of keeping it safe, doesn't necessarily have the authority to force him to fix it up. It is frustrating."