The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Plans for Unstable Williamsburg Building Don't Exist, Contractor Says

By Gwynne Hogan | December 17, 2015 6:43pm | Updated on December 18, 2015 4:42pm
 Plans filed with DOB for 120 South 4th Street were for a different building, a contractor discovered.
120 South 4 Folo
View Full Caption

WILLIAMSBURG — The Department of Buildings gave the stamp of approval to an apartment building based on plans at a completely different address, paving the way for the construction of an unsafe building that had to be vacated last month, according to a contractor.

Weeks before the Department of Buildings issued an emergency vacate order for the new luxury rental building at 120 South Fourth St. in Williamsburg formerly owned by  murdered landlord Menachem Stark, general contractor Labib Krunfol, 47, of Krunfol & Krunfol Construction signed a lease for a retail space on the ground floor and sensed something was fishy.

"We noticed there is something wrong in the basement...We noticed it right away," said Krunfol, who planned on opening an organic deli and restaurant in the corner retail space on the ground floor. "It's not safe 100 percent."

When inspecting the basement under the store he had leased, Krunfol and his workers noticed that there was a support column missing from underneath his store and the beams that ran across the basement ceiling didn't connect to supports in the walls, he said.

After an unsuccessful attempt to get plans for the building from the owners at Garden Management, Krunfol pulled copies of the original plans that the Department of Buildings had on file and was shocked by what he found.

"This floor that we're working on is not supposed to exist there," he said.

The first few pages listed the correct address, 120 South Fourth Street. But most of the pages inside were from a building at a completely different address, 261 North Ninth Street. Krunfol's discovery brought on a slew of questions, he said.

"How do you give a certificate of occupancy... [the building's] full with people and now they do the evacuation?" Krunfol wondered.

"It's a totally different game they're playing and we're paying for that," said Krunfol, who added that he had invested nearly $500,000 to customize the new space.

DNAinfo New York reviewed the copies of the building plans that Krunfol obtained then tried to get original copies from the Department of Buildings, which are a matter of public record.

When asked why the plans in the building file did not match the address of the building itself, Alex Schnell, a spokesman for the Department of Buildings, wrote: "The circumstances under which the Certificate of Occupancy was granted [are] under investigation."

The building's certificate of occupancy was signed off by the city in July 2014, according to records, and is different from the building actually standing at the corner of South Fourth Street and Bedford Avenue.

The Buildings Department approved a building that was four stories and 18 units, though the actual building is five stories and has 20 units, Gothamist reported.

Building inspectors have been known overlook certain inconsistencies in the past.

This February, prosecutors busted 11 DOB employees for accepting bribes to remove stop work orders, to expedite permitting processes and to pass inspections.

The building is owned by Abraham Bernat, the brother-in-law of Menachem Stark whose body was found burned in a Long Island dumpster in January 2014.

Stark sold the half-finished building to Bernat in 2013 during a bankruptcy proceeding, the New York Post reported, several months after a day laborer was found dead inside.

Now Krunfol finds himself in the same position as the salon owners next door who invested their savings into customizing space that they were soon kicked out of and the tenants above who were booted out of their homes days before Thanksgiving. 

"We were almost finished and now we find ourselves without money, without store," he said. "We have no solution."

Garden Management did not respond to a request for comment.