2008-10-17 / Front Page

15 Families Ordered To Get Out

By Nicholas Briano

Fifteen families were ordered to vacate their Rockaway Park homes this week by the Department of Buildings (DOB) because of rusted and inaccessible fire escapes outside their condo apartment windows.

DOB ordered residents of 15 apartments to vacate the building at 133 Beach 120 Street due to rotting and inaccessible fire escapes. DOB ordered residents of 15 apartments to vacate the building at 133 Beach 120 Street due to rotting and inaccessible fire escapes. The tenants were notified one by one as they came home from work on Tuesday afternoon that they had a short time to grab some belongings and be on their way.

The fire escapes on the side of the apartments overlooking the ocean at 133 Beach 120 Street are rusted, corroded, and in some cases completely rotted away, making them useless in the event of an emergency, officials from the city's Department of Buildings say.

The fire escapes were currently under repair, although it is unknown how long they have been in their deteriorated condition.

One decades-long tenant says that the building owners ignored the problem until the city had no choice but to vacate the premises.

"This should have been taken care of a long time ago," the resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said. "The building went co-op two years ago and the management company failed to address any issues here. Now the people have to clean up their mess."

A close-up of one of the evicted apartments shows the condition of the fire escapes that were under repair at the time tenants were notified to vacate the premises. A close-up of one of the evicted apartments shows the condition of the fire escapes that were under repair at the time tenants were notified to vacate the premises. A DOB spokesperson says the building had two violations which led to the vacate order on 15 of the building's 42 apartments.

"Two violations were issued to the building owner," Charlie Ratzer, a DOB spokesperson told The Wave. "There was a failure to maintain violation and a violation for no report on file for tenant protection."

He continued to say that no one will be allowed back into their apartments until the fire escapes are replaced or repaired.

"The secondary means of egress must be in place for the tenants," Ratzer said.

It was reported that by 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday all but two apartment owners were notified about the eviction, and Red Cross officials, who were on hand to help the displaced were not needed as the families were able to stay with friends or relatives for the time being.

The management company that allegedly let the building's fire escapes fall into disrepair is Brooklyn-based JAL Diversified Management Corporation. The company manages 57 properties city-wide, including another complex at 124 Beach 125 Street.

President John Lipuma, whose company has been managing the co-op for more than two years, is well aware of the problem and says they were working towards replacing the fire escapes as soon as possible.

"From a humanity point of view I am glad that they are out because it was not safe in the event of an emergency," Lipuma said. "We are fixing this as soon as possible."

He added that a temporary solution could be in place by Sunday or Monday that would allow the residents back into their homes because each fire escape, according to Lipuma, takes three to four weeks to complete.

"Pipe scaffolding, which was part of the original repair plans, would serve as an egress and allow people back into their apartments," he said. "We will be taking care of this in an expeditious manner."

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