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City Working to Gut Decrepit Inwood Apartment Building

By DNAinfo Staff on February 26, 2011 12:57pm  | Updated on February 27, 2011 11:53am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — The city is in negotiations with the landlord of a decrepit Inwood apartment building in an effort to gut the property that is so unsafe residents had to be evacuated last week.

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and New York State Assemblyman Guillermo Linares met Saturday with the families forced out of 76 units in the 552 Academy Street building, which had racked up a staggering 1,000 violations.

Once terms are agreed upon with slumlord owner Rachel Arfa, the principal at Ocelto Capital Management and Ocelto Properties Management, ownership of the building will be transferred to nonprofit advocacy group Community League of the Heights (CLOTH).

"There is still a long road ahead, but I am now sure that we will succeed in rebuilding," said Rodriguez, cautioning that the structure still presents a danger to public safety as long as it stands. "We must continue to work to ensure that this does not occur here or anywhere else in New York City."

Exactly how much it will cost to rebuild the property remains to be determined, according to a spokesman with the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development. A determination will be made after the building is safe enough for architects to enter and conduct an assessment.

So far, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office has pledged $500,000, with Rodriguez’s office contributing $1 million.

For now, the evacuated tenants are still living in flux, staying with either friends or family or at the YMCA at 63rd St. and Central Park West. Officials believe it could be two years before they can return to the Academy Street property.

Upper Manhattan leaders hope to have a sense of where these displaced residents will be moved into for the interim in about a week's time, a spokesman for Rodriguez's office said. Placement challenges include finding apartments of the right size that are also convenient to each family's hospital, church, friends and family.