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Washington Heights Tenants Evacuated from Building with Structural Damage

By  Joe Parziale and Leslie Albrecht | October 19, 2012 11:23pm 

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Three families were forced to leave their Washington Heights apartments on Friday after inspectors discovered unsafe conditions created by illegal construction in the building, officials said.

City inspectors acting on an anonymous tip ordered tenants to leave three apartments at 520 W. 183rd St., said Russell Murphy, spokesman for City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.

Department of Building records show that two complaints were filed this week at the building, and that the FDNY requested a structural stability check because of cracked support beams in the basement.

Inspectors from the Department of Buildings issued three vacate orders and a stop work order on Friday, displacing three sets of tenants indefinitely. Two of the families said they would stay with relatives, but a third was left scrambling for shelter. Officials with the Red Cross said they would be placed in a hotel.

Tenants said the building's landlord, identified in public records as Kwik Realty, LLC, has a history of mismanagement. Rodriguez backed up that claim, saying that he and his wife once lived in another building owned by the same company.

"I lived out the experience of his mismanagement," Rodriguez said. "He once did not cash one of my rent checks because he wanted me out of there."

Kwik Realty, LLC could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Rodriguez said he would do everything in his power to hold the landlord accountable, and will hold a meeting next week with the landlord and city agencies to discuss the problem.

"This is unacceptable," he said. "No landlord should put their tenants at risk like this. We're giving him two choices: work with us, or face the city."

Arlene Maria, the daughter of tenants on the building's third floor, said building inspectors told her the apartment wasn't safe because the landlord was doing construction work without supportive beams in place to safely hold up the building. Large cracks could be seen on the apartment's walls.

Maria, who grew up in the building and moved out in 2010, said the landlord had a history of neglecting maintenance and had offered her parents money to leave their apartment so he could move in tenants willing to pay higher rent.

"They've been trying to buy us out for a long time," Maria said. "But my mother doesn't want to move. She's been living here 30 years. Most likely this is the last straw for her. I want to help get her out of here now."