Seven months of tenant organizing at a violation-plagued building in lower Morris Park has resulted in more than $56,000 in fines against the landlord. The property owner is listed with the Department of Buildings as 1662 White Plains Road LLC. But tenants identified him as Val Preluvakaj.
The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development began legal action for basement work without a permit that may have compromised the integrity of the building by removing structural supports during construction.
The tenants of the 17-unit apartment building reached out to Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who personally visited the site and has sent his housing specialist Richard Torres numerous times to organize the tenants.
Then on Thursday, May 10, a judge responding to a legal action by HPD fined the owner $56,000, in addition to $43,000 in DOB, HPD, and Environmental Control Board fines still outstanding.
“This building is on our radar screen, the landlord so far has appeared unwilling to make repairs, and this has gone on long enough,” Vacca said. “He is now receiving significant fines and we have court orders insistently that he make the repairs that he is required to make.”
The owner of the building has been required to fix all violations within 30 days, and HPD has served him with an order directing the correction of conditions in the building according to guidelines: the most serious “C” violations within 24 hours of receiving the notice, “B” violations within 20 days, and “A” violations after 60 days, Torres said.
If the owner does not comply with the order, he will face a lien against the property, Torres said.
“We have been organizing the tenants for seven months, beginning in October 2011,” Torres said. “We were able organize the tenants, and ratchet up the violations count. We have been able to hammer the building owner with HPD and DOB Environmental Control Board violations. We brought it to the attention of HPD, and based on the information and violation count, HPD decided to take the property owner to court for failing to comply with the housing maintenance code.”
One building tenant who asked not to be identified said tenants fear speaking out because of possible retaliation by the landlord.
Efforts to reach Preluvakaj were unsuccessful.