A Manhattan landlord has been fined nearly US$145,000 in an illegal building scheme that stretches the word “cozy” to its limit.
The windowless, 634 square-foot condo featured a crudely built staircase and floors so low that inspectors had to shuffle through on their knees, according to photos provided by the New York City Department of Buildings. The ceiling was as low as four-and-a-half feet in some areas, the department said.
A neighbour first alerted inspectors to the apartment at 165 Henry St. in New York’s Lower East Side last week.
The condo’s owner, Xue Pin Ni, faces a maximum penalty of $144,750 in civil fines for building code violations, the department says.
Inspectors who responded to the first call reportedly found that a second condo at the same address had also been split up into nine rooms.
The second condo owner, Jin Ya Lin, faces a maximum fine of $139,750.
Both condo owners face additional fines of $1,000 a day for up to 45 days until they address their apartments’ respective issues.
Public records show that three other apartments in the same building have been illegally split up over the last 10 years. The building was a rabbinical school before it was converted into apartments in the 1980s.
“Every New Yorker deserves a safe and legal space to live, which is why we’re committed to routing out dangerous firetraps and ordering the landlords to make these apartments safe,” Andrew Rudansky, a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Buildings, told Global News in a statement.
Rudansky says the split-up condos posed an extreme hazard to tenants and their neighbours.
“Dangerous living conditions like this cannot be tolerated in our city, and we are holding these landlords accountable for their egregious failure to keep the building safe and livable for tenants.”
The Department of Buildings ordered all tenants to vacate the unsafe apartments immediately. The American Red Cross is helping them relocate.
The tenants were being charged up to US$600 a month for their tiny apartments, local station PIX11 reports.
City Coun. Ben Kallos compared the setup to a scene from the film Being John Malkovich.
“That was fiction, but this is a horror story,” Kallos told PIX11. “I’m concerned for the tenants I’m concerned for immigrant populations that may be getting taken advantage of by landlords who are just being greedy.”
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