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It’s two years and counting, and there appears to be no end in sight yet in the epic battle between Bay Ridge homeowners.
At its June meeting, Community Board 10 voted overwhelmingly to request that the Department of Buildings (DOB) continue to monitor the construction site at 123 87th Street, which has been embroiled in controversy ever since that home’s owner built a wall so close to the neighboring house that the adjacent home’s air conditioner was pushed in by workers. In addition, windows were completely blocked, a situation that sent the neighboring home’s owners to the board in 2007, begging for help.
The board took action most recently after the owners of the two houses adjacent to 123 87th Street appeared in front of its Zoning and Land Use Committee and asked for board support for “their request to DOB for an ‘emergency declaration’ in connection to what they believe to be an unsafe condition,” explained committee member Ron Gross during the meeting, which was held in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road.
Gross, reading the report prepared by Joanne Seminara, the committee chairperson, said that the concern was that “the foundation for the lot line wall sits against the foundation for the home at 127 87th Street, which situation creates pressure on the adjoining home which may result in serious damage to said home and allow to exist or create an unsafe condition.”
The purpose of the letter the board voted to send “is to make sure that DOB goes out there and makes another inspection,” stressed Dean Rasinya, the board’s chair.
The 15−foot long, 60−foot high cinder block lot−line wall was constructed in 2007 under a permit that was issued by DOB and subsequently revoked in December of that year, when the first stop work order for the property was issued. The reason for the revocation was that, after initially granting the permit, the agency determined that the construction plans were not, as originally deemed, in compliance with the zoning.
Ever since, the owner of 127 and other neighbors have struggled to have the wall taken down, and the owner of 123 has fought to be allowed to expand his home as he had originally planned, but has been turned down, most recently by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which denied his application earlier this spring. DOB subsequently issued a full stop work order on June 9. The agency had previously issued a criminal court summons to the owner of 123 in September, 2009. The hearing on that summons had been adjourned till the end of June to allow BSA to make its ruling.
The house at 127 “does have cracks at this point,” noted Gross.
In March, a spokesperson for DOB had told this paper that, in order to be in compliance, the owner of 123 had three choices: “Either remove the wall and provide the required eight−foot side yard, revise the plans, or file an application with a new building permit.”
But, there is no mechanism in place for removing or forcing the removal of construction that has been found to be illegal.
“The bottom line is the permit should never have been issued,” noted Josephine Beckmann, CB 10’s district manager. “It was revoked by DOB. Why isn’t there a process in place to remove the wall? It shouldn’t be there. It should come down.
“There are other situations like this in the community where DOB has issued a permit, and revoked the permit, but the structure is still standing,” Beckmann went on. “Why is that? We still haven’t gotten a good explanation from DOB. If you have a DOT summons, and you don’t pay the ticket, they take your car, but these violations can sit on the books for as long as you own the property and there’s no remedy. This case is even more disheartening because a mistake was made at the beginning. Why can’t it be corrected? It impacts the entire block.”
By press time, DOB had not responded to a request for comment, and neither the owner of 123 nor the owner of 127 had returned a call requesting comment.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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