Quicklink: Good Times At 95 Clay Street

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When I saw this item on Gothamist my jaw hit my desk. I can assure you, gentle readers, this was not due to shock. Hardly. Rather your truly’s first apartment in Greenpoint was at 95 Clay Street. That was over a decade ago— and I can assure you it was a total and utter nightmare.* If this latest episode is to believed, things have not changed much. Those of you who are so inclined can read a little more about 95 Clay “back in the day” by clicking here, here and here. As for 156 India, I offer this and this for your perusal. In closing I would like to remind everyone that while Ms. Nealis’s alleged conduct is thoroughly reprehensible, she would not have felt free to behave in such a manner if our enforcement agencies (and elected officials) had nipped this in the proverbial bud. Years ago.

*Including, but not limited to:

  • Frequent hot water outages. Apparently there was not only a residential (think: for a house) hot water heater pressed into service to service an eight unit building. The thermostat was broken so when it would get “hot” the “Super” would simply turn it off.
  • An electrical outage on the apartments on the top floor lasting days. This was probably caused by…
  • Rainwater leaking through the roof.
  • Broken mailboxes. Mail theft was pervasive.
  • An illegal apartment in the basement.
  • Trips to housing court.
  • Harassment— including having my locks filled with glue, verbal harassment and having my mailbox ripped open.

This is the short list. Any and all who have the misfortune of living in this building may want to check and see if a rent-freeze/rent reduction is still in place regarding the mailboxes.

Calling All Disgruntled North Brooklyn Renters!

May 28, 2009 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg 

rentalhellYour golden silver parachute has come! Jenny wrote:

I’m trying to forward you a cool email that I got from the Working Families party about a video contest to tell stories of “renters’ hell,” but it keeps being labeled “spam.” Any workaround?

We worked it out and here’s the deal. Per the Working Families Party website:

We’re holding our first ever video contest, where you have a chance to win a month’s free rent just by telling your rental hell story on camera. You’ll also be raising awareness about an important issue that affects millions of New Yorkers: the need for stronger rent laws.

Everyone who has ever rented has a story: rent increases, broken heating and cold showers, new owners trying to break your lease, that one bedroom next door rented to four budget conscious students, or waking up to discover that you(r) building is turning into an illegal hotel.

We know it was awful, and we’re sorry. But guess what? There could be a silver-lining! The Working Families Party is teaming up with millions of renters across New York City for the first ever video contest highlighting Rental Hell.

Entering the contest is easy:

1. Tell your story on camera.
2. Upload it to Youtube and tag it with “Rental Hell”.
3. Fill out our entry form.

What’s more, you can win one month’s free rent up to $1,999— or whatever your monthly rent is! Be advised your video must be between 30 seconds and five minutes. You can peruse the complete rules and regulations for this contest by clicking here. The deadline is June 6th— so start grousing!

To close on a distinctly Greenpoint note, I would strongly advise anyone who resided at 156 India Street (or resided at 95 Clay Street for that matter) to enter this contest.

Miss Heather

Greenpoint Photos Du Jour: Blight Me

March 9, 2009 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

INTRODUCTION

“Blight Me” was a feature on the Gowanus Lounge I was both very fond of and had the dubious honor of making numerous contributions to. Before Robert Guskind’s untimely death I had planned to run the following either here or contribute it to his site. These photographs are therefore just over a week old. Not that anything has really changed at this location. Given the Department of Buildings inability and/or unwillingness to police death traps (such as the following) I suspect this eyesore (which hails from 156 India Street) will grace my fair ‘nabe for a very, very long time.

On March 4, 2009 The Queens Courier wrote:

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) might as well be renamed the Department of Blight. Blight is what they allow to exist in this city, blight is what they allow to be built in many Queens neighborhoods, and blight is what the DOB fails to remove and demolish even though they are the agency that can do just that.

This was written in reference to a house in Whitestone, Queens. However, it is equally applicable here in Greenpoint.

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Case in point: 156 India Street. I have written about this building before. Its tenants were forced to evacuate this building and the tenement located behind it in May 2008 because they were deemed too dangerous for human habitation. Among the reasons cited were:

(HAZARDOUS) FAILURE TO MAINTAIN EXTERIOR BUILDING WALL. DEFECT IS:REAR WALL IS ROTTED,DEFECTIVE AND PULLING AWAY FROM WOOD FRAME. FIRE ESCAPE IS IN DANGER DUE TO AFFECTED REAR WALL AND COULD DISLODGE IF USED

It should also be noted that joists in the cellar were found to be rotted and it 45 degree angles.  Inadequate fire-proofing in the cellar and around the boiler were also noted. The owner, Kevin Nealis, was ordered to make repairs. He has since been served a number of summons and notice for inspection.

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With predictable results.

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I have said it before and I will say it again.

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What is the point of having rules and regulations…

vacant

if they are not enforced?

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Taking a pro-active stance on buildings such as 156 India Street is not only a matter of principle; it is also protects the quality of life for the neighborhood as a whole. Derelict properties are a magnet for squatters, ne’er do wells and people whose intentions are anything but nice. What’s more, it’s bad for business.

158indiastreet

Would you pay $1,800+ a month to have a balcony whose “scenic views” include this eyesore?

Miss Heather

P.S.: I want to give special thanks Queens Crap for bringing this article from the Queens Courier to my attention. Thanks!

Comment Of The Week: 156 India Street

July 29, 2008 ·
Filed under: 11222, Asshole, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

I guess I’m late in responding to this, but my then gf & now wife lived at 156, in the back house. I should state that I am a structural engineer. The first time I went there, happy to be invited back to a new girl’s house for the first time, I was absolutely floored by the condition of both buildings on the property.

There were holes in the front house that birds had happily nested in. The hole thing had an odd slant to it. Her friends who lived there asked me if I could do anything, but I knew that reporting it would get the place condemned, leaving them with no place to go and moderate fines for the Owner. Which is pretty much what happened.

My wife moved in with me to a nice place a few blocks away last year, but one of her friends stayed, only to come home to fire trucks & police in front of her house one night. She was given a small window to get her stuff & find a new place to live. As a younger single woman with family & friends in the area, she ended up ok, but there were families in the building who had been there for over 10 years, and I know one Polish family had a profoundly disabled wheelchair ridden child. I can’t imagine what they did.

That there is often no significant penalty to owners/landlords like this is just wrong. There should be criminal penalties associated with this type of abuse.
Rant over!

Yes there should be, but our city doesn’t seem to be too keen on defending the rights of lowly renters. If they were real go-getters they’d own a condo by now.

(Soapbox)

I am not a go-getter. I rent. As do great number of people in this neighborhood. We cannot afford a down payment on a $500,000 condominium and as a result we place our trust in landlords. They are the guardians of our personal safety. Unfortunately all too many of them are like Mr. Nealis.* When landlords fail, we call 311. To little avail. This city should be ASHAMED of itself.

Miss Heather

*Who I am certain would love to have this lot demolished. It’s probably worth more without rent-stabilized housing on it.

Best On India

May 29, 2008 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Ever had one of those things you keep telling yourself you’ll get around to but never do? This post is one of those. After much delay I am going to clue you guys in about the happenings at 156 and 158 India Street. On May 19, 2008 a tipster wrote:

The house one lot down from my boyfriend and I received an order to vacate at about 3 pm on Saturday. Fire trucks blocked the street and stayed put.

We went down to get some food and I asked one of the ten or so firemen who were standing around one of the trucks what was going on. He said the building at 156 India was about to collapse and they had to immediately evacuate. I asked if this was due to undermining of the foundation because of construction at the neighboring lot (158 India Street — Ed. Note) and he said no.

It was just due to years and years and years of neglect…. We saw people taking everything they could carry and getting out… and ever since there’s been a police car parked out front of the house with a spot light pointed at the open door to the building.

Funny thing is, about two weeks ago my boyfriend saw a guy coming home to 156 India with a chick, presumably his date…

Male Resident of 156 India: Here we are! My new place…
Chick: You live here…? (Incredulous look)
M.R.156 India: I know, I know, it looks shitty from the outside, but wait ’til you see my space!

Lucky for her she saw it before it collapses into a heap.

This house was evacuated May 17, 2008 after the F.D.N.Y. had the Department of Buildings checked the structural stability on a non-load bearing wall following a complaint of the “BUILDING SHAKING/VIBRATING/STRUCT STABILITY AFFECTED“. The Department of Buildings’s findings are as follows:

(HAZARDOUS) FAILURE TO MAINTAIN EXTERIOR BUILDING WALL. DEFECT IS:REAR WALL IS ROTTED,DEFECTIVE AND PULLING AWAY FROM WOOD FRAME. FIRE ESCAPE IS IN DANGER DUE TO AFFECTED REAR WALL AND COULD DISLODGE IF USED.

Pretty bad, eh? Brace yourself because it gets worse.

The owner of this building was cited by the Department of Buildings for more or less the same problem OVER A YEAR AGO. As you can see, Mr. Nealis was fined $2,500. He has yet to pay up. In fact, if you browse the ECB violations for 156 India Street, you’ll notice non-payment of fines and non-compliance seem to be his modus operandi. Here’s one of my personal faves. It dates from May 5, 2007:

FAILURE TO MAINTAIN BLDG. NOTED: AT CELLAR OF FRONT BLDG=NO FIREPROOF ENCLOSURE FOR BOILER RM,MISSING FIREPROOFING AT CEILING AT VARIOUS LOCATION,ROTTED JOISTS NEXT TO BOILER RM,LARGE AMOUNT OF DEBRIS THRU-OUT

Gee, that sounds really fucking dangerous. You might be interested to know that once again a fine of $2,500 was levied. It remains unpaid. Stick we me— it only gets more interesting. Take this fun fact, for example.

Kevin Nealis is (or at least was) the owner of another property in Greenpoint with an interesting history: 95 Clay Street. If this address sounds familiar to you, it is because I have written about it. Repeatedly. An apartment building was recently built there with no permits whatsoever.

I don’t know about you, but this Nealis chap sounds like a fun guy. What’s more, he may very well be responsible for a Greenpoint first:

A construction site being evacuated because the existing building next to it posed an imminent threat to public safety.

Or did the chaps at 158 India Street (Best On India LLC!*)have a hand in the demise of their neighbor? Their brand-spanking new Stop Work Order would certainly suggest so:

OBSERVATION OF DEFECTIVE AND SUB-STANDARD WORK IN PROGRESS

I suppose only the Department of Buildings and the owner of 156 and Best on India LLC only know for certain. There is, however, one thing I can assert with total confidence: thanks to one landlord’s total disregard for the safety of his tenants and the Department of Buildings appalling lack of effective enforcement six individuals and/or families are now homeless. This is inexcusable.

On the brighter side, at least this family was spared being displaced. I wonder who their landlord is?

Miss Heather

*I am NOT kidding. Click here and see for yourself!