New York Shitty Day Starter: Another DOB Complaint Lodged Against 239 Banker Street

September 19, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Lest the Department of Buildings needs any help verifying this complaint I offer this video, shot August 6, 2012:

These photos taken one month later (September 6th) by an anonymous tipster:

And this image which was taken September 10, 2012 by yours truly:

New York Shitty analysis:

  1. The only thing this complainer failed to note is that the owners of 239 Banker Street are violating a Stop Work Order. This is understandable given they have removed the Stop Work Order from their building (which is in and of itself a violation of the law).
  2. And despite (0r more likely to due to) a Loft Law application, the landlord is going about business as usual…

But I suppose this makes for even more tenants to organize. It is my understanding the Loft Law (and its revision) were intended to preserve the artistic integrity/fabric of our community. Speaking as an artist, I fail to see how stainless steel appliances and $2,700+ a month rent are crucial factors in “displacement prevention”.

Quicklink: An Interesting Item From The Real Deal

September 14, 2012 ·
Filed under: Chelsea, Chelsea Manhattan, New York City 

An excerpt/teaser from this tome:

…According to the complaint, in November 2007, the landlord gave Nazor, who had lived in the building since 1983, and Mickle, whose arrival date is not specified, notice that he wanted them out. They refused, and so he filed a suit in January 2008 to evict them, and in December 2009, a judge said they had to go. They continued to battle in court, and then after the new carve out was passed in July 2010, they filed new papers supporting their right to stay.

The law seeks “to convert a structure with only two residential units solely to benefit the individual tenant-defendants, tenants of the only one building in the only one unit in the entire city of New York which would possibly qualify,” the complaint says.

Terrence Oved, a partner with law firm Oved & Oved, who was not involved in the litigation, said it was not unusual for a law to change an element like the number of families needed to define an IMD, but he added, “the particularly narrow scope of the carve out area — as such term is defined in the complaint — does raise a red flag.”…

Indeed it does.

From The New York Shitty Inbox: Today At 239 Banker Street

September 6, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Yesterday we learned 239 Banker Street (AKA: 39 Meserole Avenue) has been given yet another moniker: The Rustic House. I for one found this more than a little amusing. The folks at Curbed did as well. In fact, they did such a wonderful job of articulating the utter absurdity of what is coming to pass at this edifice I feel compelled to give it a shout-out here. Mr. Hogarty writes:

The latest ads for the now-“posh” Sweater Factory building on Meserole Avenue in Greenpoint are refreshingly honest—describing the address as a “Factory Building”, which it is because it’s still illegal for people to live there. All the unfortunate illegal residents who thought they were living in a legit building were evicted for their own safety in 2009. Now the advertisements take a fun direction with re-branding the beleaguered propertyby identifying it as The Rustic House, which is a fixer-upper of a name if we’ve ever heard one…

Bearing the previous in mind I present for your viewing pleasure a trio of photographs* I received from an anonymous tipster today at approximately 2:30 p.m.

It doesn’t get much more “rustic” than this, gentle readers. As you can plainly see, we have six industrial garbage cans, some kind of thingamajig on casters and a trash container. The more eagle-eyed among you might also have noticed a rather large garbage truck parked on the sidewalk at left.

I am going to use my powers of deduction and presume this vehicle has been charged with unburdening the above-depicted assortment of trash receptacles of their contents. Next the question becomes (in my mind, anyway) exactly what kind of  “activity” has come to pass which would require this— perhaps construction work of some variety?

The last time the Department of Buildings checked, none was to be found.

I find this rather fascinating given Department of Buildings apparently can and does notice fifteen air conditioning units in imminent danger of falling on some unwitting passerby’s head.

Am I missing something here?

*You can view ’em all by clicking here.

New York Shitty Day Starter: 239 Banker Street Craigslist Advertisement Du Jour

September 5, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Now they’re calling it the Rustic House. Nice.

 

New York Shitty Day Starter: The Latest Craigslist Advertisement for 239 Banker Street

September 1, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

AKA: GREAT LOFT CON

It would appear more “community organizing/displacement prevention” might be needed…

From The New York Shitty Inbox: An Excellent Question

August 26, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

A person we’ll call “G” writes today, August 26, 2012:

Miss Heather,

I’ve been apartment hunting in Williamsburg/Greenpoint for the last month and came across 239 Banker the other day. After meeting some spacecase “agent” and getting a tour of the building, I kept it on the list of potential rentals. Today I came across your blog and all this shitty info on the building/landlord/owners. How are they even allowed to be showing the place and renting it out? A couple happened to be getting a tour with me and my roommate as well and after, they put a deposit down on a 3 bedroom. Where can I get more info on this shady business? Thanks for the help.
Cheers…

“G” exercised something called “due diligence”. Thus, I recommended to him/her that before signing the lease to any apartment, one should consult the Department of Buildings’s web site.

As you can clearly see, in the case of 239 Banker Street there are quite a few red flags. As for why this space is still being showed by real estate agents: well, we’ll just say that is a result of “community organizing”

New York Shitty Day Ender: 239 Banker Street, Revisited…

August 19, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

possibly, probably for the final time.

Another day (August 19, 2012 to be specific), another move-in at 239 Banker Street.

Another day, another advertisement for the “Sweater Factory Lofts” on Craigslist.

I know what you’re thinking, gentle readers:

Why is this allowed to continue?

I have been long remiss in sharing the good news so here it is: what you have just seen is not a failure on, say, our municipal agencies and/or elected officials to defend the public’s interest/safety. It is a community organizing success story. You read me correctly: S-U-C-C-E-S-S. S-T-O-R-Y!

This I learned from none other than a Community Board 1 member who also happens to be a Community Organizer for an organization called “Neighbors Allied For Good Growth”.* She writes— after educating me on the specifics of Loft Law eligibility regarding landlords willing to “build out” (such units are eligible, as I learned) and I pointing out to her that by the time window allotted by the law alone 239 Banker does not qualify or Loft Law protection. I have taken the liberty of bold-facing my favorite passages.

It seems like everyone is waiting to see families (I thought they didn’t rent to those —Ed. Note)evicted onto the streets (again) and for these tenats to loose all sorts of cash (again). Filing the application protected these tenants from being further victimized. They arent stupid and can do the math. They understand that they dont qualify and they really dont need you to spell it out for them. However lame you may find it, the application will allow them leverage to get back deposits, gives them time to find new homes, and changes the script from them being victims in the scenario to having a voice in what goes down.

Let’s review/play Devil’s Advocate for a moment:

1. If I were able to afford an “apartment” to the sum of $2,700 – $3,200 a month (which is in my opinion a lot of money) methinks a little due diligence would be in order. A simple Google search reveals this building’s dubious history.

2. Hell, some disgruntled neighbor even noted this ON 239 Banker Street itself not too long ago (as seen at left).

3. But I suppose mistakes will be made— over and over— and that’s why we need “Community organizers”. Nevermind the fact tenants who can outlay the kind of money to reside in such a building can probably also afford to hire an attorney and file a class action suit.

But there I go again being “lame”. What’s worse, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Naturally, I was very intrigued by what this Community Organizer/Community Board 1 member had to say. Especially since she had an active hand in the Loft Law application in question:

i know who filed the app. Kinda goes with the territory of tenant organizer. It’s not easy to stop a slumlord. Spend one day in housing court or read the articles about the buildings we focused on for our tenant rights rally a couple of weeks ago and you will see all sorts of outrageous behavior. the slash and burn budgets of bloomberg dont help anything but it is more than just a city issue. dhcr — a state agency– has an average 2 year wait for a first hearing on an overcharge….

After informing this Community Organizer that I had, in fact, experienced some rather outrageous landlord behavior myself (over a $850/month apartment, no less, and have been to housing court) I pressed on:

If the applicant(s) knew what they were getting into was illegal; know they are ineligible for protection and you are bemoaning the fact our city agencies, the loft board among them— which has a 15 month backlog— why are you adding to the problem (e.g., filing this application in the first place)? This strikes me as being inconsistent. Is that 15 month window why the landlord “going along for the ride”? Just curious.

To wit I was informed:

they didnt know it was illegal when they signed the lease. filing the application was the only way to get them due process. it is also a great way to get the landlord into a city agency. the old tenants could never find him to serve him, etc. once a tenant files, there is no way for a landlord to stop the action–something this landlord tried to do. trust me, he doesnt want any rent stabilized tenants. in the end, you will probs end up with a hotel in that space….

…probs…

That’s my prob. This property was issued permits by the Department of Buildings under the ostensible purpose of it being a hotel. It didn’t exactly pan out that way.

Fifteen months to two years (possibly more) is a very long time— especially when a slew of elections are around the corner. And politicians will do anything for votes.

New York Shitty analysis:

1. Contrary to what this individual alleges, I do NOT want to see people thrown out on the street.
2. Rather, I (and I suspect a lot of folks who read this site) would have preferred to see this nipped in the proverbial bud. But it wasn’t.
3. Numerous complaints were filed about what was happening at 239 Banker Street and (other) Community Board members have brought it to the table both via correspondence and during public meetings. All to no avail.
4. This leads me to no other conclusion than other, higher forces are at work here. Not that I’m pointing fingers, mind you.

I’m not.

What this seemingly well-intentioned individual fails to comprehend is there is a flip-side to her “organizing”. Namely, that while protecting the interests of these tenants she is also basically enabling the landlord to go about “business as usual” (as clearly illustrated by the images gracing the beginning of this post).

Be it violating a Stop Work Order— repeatedly, dumping bricks into some neighbor’s backyard (and in so doing, destroying his barbecue grill) or real estate agents (acting on the behalf of the landlord/”management”, apparently) luring in more “victims” (her words, not mine) into leasing apartments in this quite illegal space. “Victims” who (apparently) need her assistance so as to become empowered.

Am I the only person who thinks this is total and utter bullshit? As a friend of mine recently opined:

Nothing refreshes disillusionment quite like ethics (or in this case, the law — Ed. Note) unequally applied.

Consider yours truly “refreshed”.

No amount of pointing out how utterly absurd this situation has become is going to change the fact the landlord(s) at this property have basically done whatever they wanted— for years— and have for all intents and purposes suffered no consequences for their actions.

I suppose I should simply drink the Kool Aid and see the glass half full:

Our public officials and municipal agencies charged with upholding the law and serving in the public’s interest did not fail. Rather, 239 Banker Street was (is) a stellar example of community organizing in north Brooklyn.

*Formerly known as Neighbors Allied Against Garbage.

239 Banker Street: SWO’d (Yet) Again

July 10, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

As Kurt Vonnegut would say:

So it goes.

 

From The New York Shitty Inbox: And Now A Word From Our City Councilman

April 11, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

It would appear, at long last, my coverage of 239 Banker Street (which is clearly being followed by real estate notables such as Brownstoner and Curbed, real estate agents and ostensible tenants of said space) has gotten the attention of our City Councilman! Steve Levin writes:

Heather,

I have noticed your posts and am glad you continue to bring light to the issue of lofts in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The Loft Law was designed to protect residential tenants who, knowingly or unknowingly, moved into manufacturing or commercial spaces and it may grant rights for tenants to save and stabilize their housing and avoid the excessive costs associated with being vacated.  With regard to 239 Banker Street, I cannot say whether they will be covered by the Loft Law.  However, when the building was vacated in 2009, many tenants suddenly lost their living spaces as well as thousands of dollars in rent and security deposits.  I do not want to see a repeat of that event.  I will work to ensure that all building code issues at 239 Banker are addressed, but I hope to avoid seeing another vacate order if possible.  All I can do is try to spread the word about the Loft Law so that tenants in such spaces can apply for coverage that they may be legally entitled to.  Of course, the Loft Board will make final determinations about each application individually.

Sincerely yours,
Stephen Levin
Councilmember

To wit I replied (sans visual aides):

Hey,

First off I appreciate the email— and I agree that the loft law (which is much-needed) may or may not applicable in this case. What really upsets me is we are for all intents and purposes seeing the exact same situation (as 2009) play itself out again, e.g.; a commercial building—without the applicable permits I’ll add— is being converted into residential space, this space is being willfully and deliberately marketed/presented as residential space;

people are moving in under the illusion it is legally inhabitable space, etc.

This would suggest that lessons were not learned (bye it by the owner of this property, our enforcement agencies, etc.) the first time around and/or whatever consequences borne by the owner of this space were not a sufficient deterrent from engaging in this (illegal) behavior again. Or to put it differently: the “system” we have in place is not working. I have a very big problem with this. What is the point of having laws on the books, agencies deemed with the enforcement of said laws and due process if they can be bypassed, quite flagrantly I’ll note, in such a manner?

Do I want to see people thrown out on the street again? No, not really. But I am also getting very tired of this building’s owners total disregard for the law— and the fact they have been basically enabled by the upholders of said laws to do so. No matter how you cut it, this is appalling. They tried via the Department of Buildings to have this space reclassified as residential. It was refused.

They could (theoretically) go through our Community Board and get a zoning variance— but have seen fit not to do so. Why should they? There are for all intents and purposes no consequences for their actions, thus they do whatever they want.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t add in closing that real estate agents are seemingly eager participants in this fraud. Each and every one of them (in my opinion) should be reported to the Department of State and have their licenses revoked.

Thanks again!

H

With all due respect, what seems to be lost by our City Councilman is he can, in fact, stop another “repeat” of this event. By simply asking the Department of Buildings to do its job. Months ago.

Photo Credits: All taken today, April 11, 2012, by yours truly.

Reader Comment du Jour: An Agent Speaks About 239 Banker Street

April 9, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

CitySlicker24 writes in regards to this post:

I am a real estate salesperson and I just started working for a broker that’s representing the property owner, leasing out the building’s top three floors as residential units. I had not heard anything about this building being illegal until a couple of my prospective clients cancelled on me, citing your website.

A couple of things I wanted to raise with you: Oasisnyc.com shows that this is zoned as an office building, not as a manufacturing facility, as your article claims. Also, you fail to mention that the building was issued a certificate of occupancy in 1930, permitting up to 225 occupants on the upper three floors, though you do allude to the fact that NYC Department of Finance has this building classified as a hotel.

Furthermore, an application for legalization under the NYC loft law is pending, and indeed the building has undergone modernization, including new windows, floors, and fire sprinklers installed throughout each unit. I was in the units two days ago and saw that there have been significant projects intended to make the building appropriate for dwelling use.

Obvioulsy your efforts to keep everybody informed are laudable, and now that this story has been brought to my attention, I have the legal duty, which I will uphold, to advise my prospective tenant clients that the building is zoned as a commercial space, that the legal status of the building has yet to be determined, since the DOB has not yet resolved the active complaints, and that an application for coverage under the loft law is pending. And I will try to get the company’s listing agent to bring these issues up with the owner and the city in order to find out whether I should even be dealing with this property at all.

While I disagree with some of Cityslicker’s analysis, for example:

  1. the building in question is permissible as a hotel per the Department of Buildings because it is located in an Industrial Business Zone and
  2. of course there’s the fact this building is not legally allowable as residential property in the first place but is being represented as such

I’ll be very interested to see where this leads.

To be continued…?

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