Brooklyn Heights

The million-dollar ghost on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Neighbors ask, ‘Why doesn’t 194 Columbia Heights' owner sell already?’

May 1, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Moss grows on the facade of 194 Columbia Heights and locks are chained to the front door. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

The owner of a decrepit Brooklyn Heights brownstone that could sell for millions is in danger of losing the house to foreclosure — for the second time! — if he doesn’t pay $55,000 in overdue taxes.

Dr. Austin Moore, whose failure to pay his property taxes is a decades-old issue in the Heights, now has until May 17 to settle up with the taxman and stop the city from beginning foreclosing on his Promenade-facing 194 Columbia Heights townhouse.

The city started the very same process against Moore in 1986 — when the Brooklyn Heights psychiatrist got behind on his taxes the first time — but he paid the undisclosed bill within a month and cleared himself of the city lien.

The Promenade-facing side of 194 Columbia Heights has bricked-in and boarded-up windows.

This time, if the city starts the process, Moore would have a year to pay up — or six months to set up a payment plan for the outstanding 2016-2018 taxes.

If not, he could finally lose his once-stately home, which he is allowing to slowly decay, despite its location fronting one of the world’s greatest views.

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Moore, a board-certified psychiatrist and member of the American Board of Psychology and Neurology, purchased the Civil War-era brownstone in 1969. He has not lived there for at least 25 years, neighbors said — and in the years since, the building has been allowed to fall apart.

Moore’s neglect of 194 Columbia Heights is most visible on the Promenade-facing side of the house, which has bricked-in or boarded-up windows. The front of the building is partly covered by a thick moss.

The Department of Buildings started issuing violation notices in December, but Moore has not paid the $1,500 fine for a broken cornice, online records indicate.

He also has an open violation from the Landmarks Preservation Commission dating back to 2013. It is unclear why.

And in 2009, a piece of the roof blew off and fell against a building next door, the Brooklyn Eagle reported at the time.

No one besides Moore knows why he’s letting the four-story house fall apart — especially given its value. A house just down the street at 212 Columbia Heights sold for $11 million in 2012.

“It’s a mystery to me what his motives are,” one neighbor said. “Why would he preside over its deterioration instead of fixing it up or selling it to someone who treats it with love?”

The neighbor added that chance encounters with Moore, who lives nearby, always are brief and always end the same way.

“He’ll say, ‘Just you wait and see. There will be big changes,’ and then he shoots off,” the neighbor explained.

Maybe he hopes to move back into the Italianate brownstone. Maybe he’s just hoping to pass it on to his heirs.

In any event, he’ll have to pay his taxes to hang onto it. And if the decay continues, the Landmarks Preservation Commission could rule that Moore is committing “demolition by neglect,” which would invite additional punishment because the house is in a landmark district.

“This house is a real blight on the block, and most especially for the neighbors on either side of it,” said Judy Stanton, the former executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

“People couldn’t understand why the house remained empty with front doors chained and padlocked. They would call with reports of rats out front or broken windows in the back. And there were always a few would-be buyers asking why the house wasn’t up for sale.”

The Eagle had the same question, but Moore has declined multiple requests to comment. A woman who answered the intercom at his Brooklyn Heights co-op said only, “I’m sorry. No.”

 

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