City Demands Bed-Stuy Building Owners Repair Unsafe Homes

By Paul DeBenedetto on November 22, 2013 9:31am 

 A vacant home at 874 Lafayette Ave. flooded on Aug. 14, destroying at least one neighbor's basement.
A vacant home at 874 Lafayette Ave. flooded on Aug. 14, destroying at least one neighbor's basement.
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DNAinfo/Paul DeBenedetto

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The city is demanding that owners repair three abandoned buildings on Lafayette Avenue in Bed-Stuy that have caused flooding and rat infestations for neighbors, according to documents filed in Brooklyn Civil Supreme Court.

The city Department of Buildings issued summonses ordering the owners of 874, 876 and 880 Lafayette Ave. to fix unsafe conditions that residents said were plaguing their homes.

Each of the buildings was unsecured, with windows and basement doors being broken or completely missing, according to the summonses, leading to squatters who have caused damage to surrounding homes.

DNAinfo New York in September reported on the properties, which in the past few months have flooded, attracted rodents and become homes for squatters. 

One of the residents affected, Yvette Welsh, 52, had her basement destroyed when water began pouring out of 874 Lafayette Ave. The flood took out a wall in the finished basement and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage, Welsh said.

"That would be so good," Welsh said when she heard about the summonses. "I was getting worn out."

The buildings' owners were so unresponsive, Welsh said, that she had to buy a padlock and lock up the buildings herself, for fear of a fire similar to one across the street from her home earlier this year.

On April 15, a three-alarm fire tore through abandoned 857 Lafayette Ave. at 1:42 a.m., sending three firefighters to the hospital and damaging three surrounding properties, according to the FDNY.

Welsh said she's tried to reach out to the owners to avoid such a problem, and actually spoke to one caretaker on Oct. 11, whom she said promised to fix up the building.

But as of Thursday, the man still hadn't returned, Welsh said.

"They said they were going to start cleaning up," Welsh said. "They haven't been back since October. That was the last time I'd seen or heard from them."

The owner at the time of the flood, Yolie Schwartz, told DNAinfo New York in September that the flood was caused by a squatter who stole pipes from the building. 

When asked if he was willing to reimburse Welsh for the damage, Schwartz hesitated.

"If you're talking about a million dollars, the answer's no," Schwartz said at the time. "If you're talking about a couple hundred, OK."

The building's new owner, Oscar Kohn, who bought the house on Aug. 15 for $175,000, said he was planning on fixing up the property, but did not have a timeframe or start date for the work.

When asked if he was aware of the building's recorded problems, including a broken basement door cited in the buildings department's summons, Kohn said he wasn't.

"I don't get involved," Kohn said. "I have management who takes care of the whole thing."

If the buildings are not fixed by Dec. 3, the buildings department can ask the court to take over or demolish the buildings, according to the summonses.

Attempts to reach the owners of 874 and 880 Lafayette Ave. were unsuccessful.

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