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Vacca rails against Holland Ave SRO

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Councilman Jimmy Vacca has got a bone to pick with property owners in the lower Morris Park area who are converting their one- and two-family homes into Single Room Occupancy dwellings.

The latest abuse was discovered when he was on patrol with the Allerton-Pelham Parkway community patrol on a Sunday afternoon.

After receiving a complaint about a disturbance, the civilian patrol car rushed over to 1663 Holland Avenue, and upon meeting with the occupants, the councilman found yet another SRO in the still relatively safe, yet troubled, community.

On Wednesday, August 20, the Department of Buildings opened a complaint against the owner of the property, Secundino Rivera, for illegally converting a two-family home into an already tenant occupied six-unit SRO.

“I was on patrol and there was a lady who was getting all of her belongings thrown out into the street from what was an illegal eviction,” Vacca said. “There were even cat cages on the street. That was when we discovered the two-family house was converted into an SRO.”

Vacca, who is greatly concerned about the growing problem of SROs, specifically in lower Morris Park, said this practice is sapping the strength from an otherwise vibrant neighborhood.

“I told the people that no one was going to throw them out, but that I knew that they were there,” Vacca explained.  “Where there was once two families, now you have six families, each consisting of four or five people, living in one room together.”

While Vacca said the issue is part of a growing epidemic of disrespect toward housing and zoning ordinances in the community, others say the problem has abated somewhat.

Further to the south, it appears that the battle against SROs is working, giving hope to the lower Morris Park area.

“There are still SROs in Van Nest, but the number has declined in the past five years,” Zena Twyman, of the Van Nest Community Association, said.

Regardless, all agree that zoning regulations need to be followed by all property owners in Community Board 11 and around the borough. 

“CB 11 has had several campaigns to clean up illegal occupancies in the Van Nest area, and they have meet with success when they were carried out,” CB 11 member Joe Thompson noted.

Despite the success, though, there remains lingering questions as to the fate of the neighborhood, and of the tenants unfortunate enough to have to be evicted from their homes.

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