Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eyesore Lands Owner in Court

By Tamara Best

On 69th Avenue between Kessel and Juno streets in Forest Hills, all the homes have perfectly manicured lawns, except one. For years, neighbors have watched as the house at 93-07 has gradually fallen into disrepair.

Broken windows, tattered doors and overgrown shrubbery are just a few of the problems residents on the block cite about the home.

“There’s no question it’s a problem,” said Maria Frankel, 74, who lives next door. “The roof is ready to collapse. You can smell the odor standing by the door. It scares me to live next to a house like that, I have nightmares.” Gertrude DiCapua, 85, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years, said she estimates that the home has been abandoned for the last 25 years.

Now, Stanley Sun of Flushing, the owner of the home, is due in court next month after it was deemed “unsafe” by the city Department of Buildings (DOB). Sun took over ownership of the house after his mother Nancy Chao Sun died in 2007.

Jen Gilbert of the DOB said there are several criteria used to decide whether an owner can be taken to court, including whether or not the house is open, vacant or unguarded.

“Because of the Sun’s family repeated failure to take action, DOB has stepped in,” said Gilbert. “If the judge declares the building is inadequate, the city will make sure that whatever action is needed and will be repaired at the owner’s expense.”

However, Gilbert said the house doesn’t pose an imminent threat at this time. Between now and next month, the DOB plans to visit the house for a site survey with the findings discussed at the hearing. After an inspection last week, the DOB recommended that the house sealed after a rear door was found open.

A review of DOB records shows that the house has acquired 16 complaints going as far back as 1995. Complaints for the property included excessive debris, improper drainage and several for failure to maintain and for being open and unguarded. among others.

The property also received several violations from the DOB over the years including several for “failure to maintain exterior building wall.” In September 1999 and again in May of this year, the building was deemed unsafe.

DiCapua said neighbors have made petitions over the years in an attempt to see a change, with little happening.

“We’ve been at this for years trying to get someone to do something,” she said.

It now appears that residents will receive support from at least one local elected official. “That house has to be put into livable conditions, I understand that the roof is in disrepair,” said City Council Member Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills). “I’m going to make sure that it doesn’t go on for a long time. Unfortunately no one looked at it but I am going to see it through.”

Tired of seeing the house in disrepair, DiCapua decided to pitch in. For the last few years, she has collected the mail from the house, which often sits in piles on the steps.

“I usually go to tidy it up,” she said. “But right now it’s so hot I can’t. When I see it needs it, I’ll do it. I want the block to look nice.”

Frankel said aside from the hazard the home poses to her property, it is also hindering her ability to earn additional income.
“I’m trying to rent out the basement and I am having problems with possible tenants because people see it and think it’s my house and drive away.”

DiCapua said she hopes the hearing will bring some sort of permanent change.

“I came here in ‘64 and it was the best looking house on the block. Now it’s an eyesore.”

Several attempts to reach Sun were unsuccessful.

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