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Noisy Illegal Day Care Caused My Ceiling to Collapse, Woman Says

By James Fanelli | January 8, 2016 7:22am
 Denise Suares said that the illegal day care center above her apartment caused her ceiling to collapse.
Denise Suares said that the illegal day care center above her apartment caused her ceiling to collapse.
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DNAinfo New York/James Fanelli

SUGAR HILL — A tenant at a Harlem apartment building said the constant tromping of rowdy kids at an illegal day-care facility above her unit caused her ceiling to collapse.

Denise Suares, 63, told DNAinfo New York on Wednesday that a 3-foot-long chunk of ceiling in her daughter's bedroom fell on Thanksgiving Day, destroying her flat-screen television.

The collapse left a hole in the ceiling that doesn't go completely through to the floor above, but allows her to hear everything going on in the day care.

"The hole is getting bigger and bigger the more they jump up and down," Suares said. "I told the super, 'If you don't fix the situation, who knows, maybe a child might fall through.'"

 Denise Suares said her ceiling collapsed because of tromping toddlers in the illegal day care center above her apartment.
Ceilling Collapse
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Suares, who lives in a landmarked building at 80 St. Nicholas Place in Sugar Hill, said she has been living a nightmare for the past six years since the tenant above opened a day care that serves a dozen toddlers.

The noise from the romper room grew so bad that Suares filed a lawsuit in 2014, claiming the day care is a nuissance that needs to be shuttered. The lawsuit is still being litigated, records show.

"It's ridiculous for anybody to have to live under this type of scenario," said Suares, who has had her two-bedroom rental in the building for 30 years.

While the day-care owner, Suzette Walsh, is licensed by the state Office of Children and Family Services to operate a day care, the city says the space is being used illegally.

The city Department of Buildings sent a July 20, 2015, letter to Walsh telling her to stop using the second-floor unit as a day-care facility.

The letter said the day care is illegal because it is in a non-fireproof building. Day cares in non-fireproof buildings must be located on the ground floor with direct access to the street and must have sprinklers, according to the Department of Buildings.

A DOB inspector also issued a violation to the building's property agent, Gilman Management Corp., on Nov. 9, for allowing the day care to remain open. Records show the violation is still open. 

DOB records show that the five-story building also has a stop-work order on construction and 22 open violations. One of the open violations is for decorative stone above the building's fifth floor that is in danger of falling onto the sidewalk.

Suares said the facade problems make the day care even riskier.

"Those kids come up and line up outside the building. It's a dangerous situation," Suares said.

Walsh, who lives in Mount Vernon, N.Y., could not be reached for comment. Her lawyer, James Fishman, did not respond to requests for comment.

The state licensed Walsh as a day care operator because it regulates home-based child-care programs.

The state has less-strict requirements than the city Department of Helath and Mental Hygiene, which regulates school-based child-care programs and center-based day cares outside a home. For instance, the state does not require a certificate of occupancy or letter of no objection for day cares in residential buildings.

The city's buildings department said while it has issued violations, it cannot legally vacate the day care unit because the conditions do not constitute an immediate hazard to the occupants. A fire escape on the building's second floor provides a second means of egress, according to the city.

Gilman Management did not respond to a request for comment. 

Suares said the day care makes noise from 7 a.m., when parents arrive to drop off their kids, to closing at 6:30 p.m. The noise ranges from crying infants to toddlers singing "If You're Happy and You Know it."

"Oh my god, do I know all the songs," she said.