Pols say Seventh Ave. evacuation is proof strict laws needed
City issues vacate order at suspected illegal home conversion
A decision by the Department of Buildings (DOB) to order tenants of a Dyker Heights house to vacate the premises on Aug. 4 is proof that stricter laws are needed to prevent illegal home conversions in Brooklyn, according to local lawmakers.
Thirty-one people were living in a two-family house at 6705 Seventh Ave., according to Councilmember Vincent Gentile.
On Thursday, following an inspection by the FDNY and DOB, an order to vacate was issued. The inspection was prompted by calls from local residents complaining about the building.
A DOB spokesperson confirmed that inspectors found that the two-family home had been converted into a five-family dwelling.
All of the home’s occupants were ordered to leave the building. The American Red Cross offered temporary housing assistance to the tenants, according to the DOB.
The building is owned by Hou Yu Zhou, according to Department of Finance records.
Gentile, who has introduced legislation aimed at giving the city more teeth to combat illegal home conversions, said the Seventh Avenue situation is proof that laws need to be strengthened.
One bill sponsored by Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would allow the city to hit landlords who illegally subdivide housing units with stiff fines.
“If my bill were law today, the bad actor landlord would be fined $15,000 per each unit beyond the certificate of occupancy and if unpaid, the fine would be subject to a lien sale on the property among additional regulations,” Gentile said in a statement.
The tenants of 6705 Seventh Ave. were living in extremely dangerous conditions, Gentile charged.
“The two-family home, illegally subdivided into a five-family home, had extreme overcrowding, lack of egress, fire safety concerns and compromised plumbing, electrical and gas work. We simply cannot afford to continue to put the safety of vulnerable individuals, our neighborhoods and our communities at risk. My patience is running short as residents, many of who are immigrants, continue to be put in grave danger unbeknownst to them. From there, a negative domino effect ensues, degrading the quality of life for the neighborhood as schools become overcrowded and city services become overwhelmed,” Gentile stated.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10 (Dyker Heights-Bay Ridge) visited the site as bewildered tenants were packing up their belongings to vacate the premises.
It wasn’t just the building that was dangerous, Beckman said. “There was a garage in the rear that three children and four adults were living in. Everyone was crammed into one room,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle.
State Sen. Marty Golden Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) vowed to continue to press for state legislation to crack down on unscrupulous building owners. “The proliferation of these illegal conversions is plenti-fold and we must continue to dedicate resources to target locations where these altered homes exist,” he stated.
John Quaglione, Golden’s deputy chief of staff, noted that inspections of suspected illegal home conversions picked up after a task force was established at the behest of the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance, an ad hoc group formed to raise public awareness of the issue.
Quaglione attended a fundraiser the alliance held in a Dyker Heights pub on Aug. 6.
“The Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance is making a difference and you can tell by those in attendance donating to support the effort that their work has been noticed and is appreciated. The presence of illegal conversions impacts our quality of life too much and we must get a handle on this situation as soon as possible,” Quaglione told the Eagle.
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