Staten Island Home Hit by Car Has Long History of Complaints

By Nicholas Rizzi on October 3, 2012 6:48am 

STATEN ISLAND — A Tottenville home destroyed when an allegedly drunk driver plowed his car into it Friday morning had more than two dozen complaints filed against it over the last two decades, record show.

Seven of the complaints received by the Department of Buildings since 1984 involved allegations of illegal conversion into a warren of apartments at the building on 5309 Arthur Kill Road.

The home — owned by Albert Calascione — was zoned to be a three apartment walk-up building, but had been re-fashioned to house four families, according to neighbors, the Department of City Planning and DOB records.

However, the majority of complaints were listed as closed because the DOB could not get access inside the building to inspect it, records show.

Calascione did not respond to calls for comment.

Charles Trainor, 22, allegedly drove his 2010 Hyundai Elantra into an extension built onto the main house shortly after 4 a.m. Sept. 28, seriously hurting Lisa Roman, 40, and her daughter, Leonora, 5, who were sleeping in the kitchen, police and relatives said.

Lisa Roman received third-degree burns to her buttocks and pelvis, her daughter Melissa Roman, 17, told DNAinfo.com New York. Leonora suffered a fractured skull, brain damage, broken bones and burns across her body.

Trainor was arrested and charged with first and second degree vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated. He was arraigned on Saturday and released on $35,000 bail, a spokesman for the Richmond County District Attorney's office said.

Records show that the extension where the Romans lived was originally zoned to be used as a store, but was converted into two small apartments while the house itself has two larger apartments, neighbors said.

Currently, the building has one open complaint — for improper drainage — that was issued in  August. It was issued two violations following the crash — one on Friday for failure to maintain the house after a car accident and another issued Tuesday for dividing an extension.

The first has since been resolved, a DOB spokeswoman said.

A partial vacancy order was still in place on the property Tuesday, according to DOB records.

The DOB did not respond to request for comment on Monday and Tuesday about the illegal conversion complaints.

Neighbors said that the house has been the source of trouble for years.

"I'm furious," said a neighbor of 10 years who refused to give her name, fearing retaliation from Calascione. "I'm fed up with it."

She said that the building has had up to 40 or 50 tenants living there at one time.

"There's too many people going in and out," she said. "It's disgusting what's going on over there."

She said she's been in all the apartments over the years, and described the one where the Romans lived as tiny studios with two small rooms that could barely fit a futon.

"It's a shoe box," she said.

A former tenant, who also refused to give her name, claimed that she had to take the landlord to court because he was illegally stealing her electricity to power the extension's apartments, leaving her with a $300 to $400 monthly bill.

"They're really shady characters," said the former tenant, who lived there for nearly four years. "They did not want to fix anything in the home."

DOB records show a complaint was filed for running a heavy duty extension cord to provide electricity to another apartment in 1994, but Calascione was never issued a violation because the wire was gone at the time of inspection.

Several other complaints were also filed about the electrical work, including it only having one meter for the whole building, according to DOB records.

DOB complaints aren't the only problems the house has caused the owner.

Calascione and his wife Hafida were arrested in 2010 for Medicaid fraud after they collected more than $42,000 in funds without telling the government about the Tottenville property, a laundry business they own in Brooklyn, and a premise in New Jersey, the Advance reported.

City records show that Calascione owns several other buildings, mostly in Brooklyn.

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