Homeowner federal lawsuit: Department of Buildings, building group violated constitutional rights

Homeowners who are part of the federal lawsuit against the Department of Buildings are joined by their attorney and elected officials at a press conference on Tuesday, February 24.
Community News Group / Photo by Patrick Rocchio

A group of homeowners in Soundview and Clason Point are suing a developer and the Department of Buildings for $8 million in federal court for violating their constitutional rights.

The suit, filed on behalf of owners of six homes, claims damages against an umbrella building group known collectively as Bad Ass, and against DOB.

It alleges that the two acted in concert to approve housing permits for sub-standardly built homes that ultimately failed to obtain permanent certificates of occupancy.

The homeowners’ attorney, Susan Chana Lask, explained at a press conference on Tuesday, February 24 that the homeowners cannot obtain a permanent CO from the DOB which hinders them from reselling or refinancing the homes. DOB refuses to go after Bad Ass, she said.

The lawsuit alleges that DOB allowed Bad Ass to sell the homes with temporary certificates of occupancy because it collects more than half its revenue from construction permits issued to unscrupulous builders.

“The Department of Buildings has ignored these people long enough,” she said. “It is responsible for safe housing, not issuing building permits for illegal housing because it is more concerned with its $100 million a year in revenue while people suffer.”

Lask said that DOB’s actions amount to a constitutional property grab, and the suit states they are deprived of their rights under the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which protects property rights.

At the press conference, plaintiff Johanny DelaCruz said that rain literally pours into her home.

“We thought we purchased the American dream, but the Department of Buildings and Bad Ass gave us a nightmare,” she said. “We live in a freezing, damp uninsulated structure that is illegal and frightening.”

Plaintiff Martha Diaz said that when she moved into her house about seven years ago, she discovered that it did not have proper insulation and that the builder had made her bedroom smaller than what was in an original model. She paid about $600,000 for her home.

Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo support the beleaguered homeowners.

“The actions taken by unscrupulous Bronx contractors to dupe unsuspecting families into spending their life savings on uninhabitable new homes are reprehensible,” said Klein. “Not only are these new homes constructed poorly and with shoddy, cheap materials – they pose significant health and safety concerns to the families living there.”

Crespo stated, “We can no longer allow unscrupulous individuals and shady companies to defraud those willing to invest in our community and make a commitment to raise their families in our neighborhoods. They deserve justice and today we take another step in seeking it!”

The homes probably cannot be made habitable and need to be literally reconstructed, said Lask, who added she would like to see her clients receive damages to purchase new homes.

Cheap, slipshod construction has led to black mold, said Lask, as well as poor plumbing and cracked walls.

DOB is issuing violations to innocent homeowners instead of dealing with the developer, which has disappeared, she said.

A spokesman from the city Law Department stated it would review the suit once it was filed.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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