Volume 22, Number 11 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 31 - August 6, 2009

Downtown Express file photo by Jefferson Siegel

Esther Regelson on the roof of her Washington St. building two years ago after a nearby demolition project damaged her building. Now she and her neighbors fear they may be forced to move quickly if the building is deemed unsafe.

Building’s condition has neighbors fearing a forced move

By Julie Shapiro

A new batch of violations at 109 Washington St. has the building’s residents fearing anew that they could lose their homes.

Two summers ago, the demolition of a parking garage at 111 Washington St. destabilized 109 Washington, the five-story, rent-stabilized building next-door. Bricks tumbled from the facade and cracks ran up the walls. The Buildings Dept. intervened, but damage had already been done.

As it turned out, the demolition of the parking garage was for naught — the faltering economy prevented The Brauser Group from building their planned 50-story condo tower at 111 Washington St., and the Port Authority has been using the vacant lot for construction trailers.

But the effects of the construction from two years ago are still haunting 109 Washington. Firefighters doing a routine inspection of the 16-unit building recently noticed rotting beams in the basement and called the Buildings Dept. in to take a look, said Esther Regelson, who has lived at 109 Washington for 25 years.

The Buildings Dept. inspectors not only corroborated that the beams were rotting, but also found defective wiring, and noted that the owner was failing to maintain the building, according to online records. A D.O.B. engineer is preparing a report and will monitor the building weekly, Regelson said.

Regelson and her neighbors are concerned that the D.O.B. report could show such extensive damage that the D.O.B. would decide the 1885 building is uninhabitable and vacate it.

“I’m pretty worried,” Regelson said, beginning to cry. “It’s rather stressful to think you might have to leave at a moment’s notice.”

In similar situations Downtown, such as 213 Pearl St., the residents were given only a few hours to pack up their belongings once the city determined that the building was unsafe. Afterward, the residents had only limited access to their buildings and had to leave many personal items behind.

Regelson and several other 109 Washington residents spoke at Community Board 1’s full board meeting Tuesday night, and the board unanimously passed a resolution urging the city to make sure 109 Washington is sound before allowing any other construction to take place nearby. The board also requested that tenants have access to any city reports and records regarding their building.

“This is something we’ve been expecting and worried about for a few years,” said Nancy Keegan, another 109 Washington resident. “We need a moratorium on other construction.”

The moratorium is important because the first priority should be making sure that 109 Washington is safe before it risks undergoing any more damage, Keegan said.

The building could have additional problems, including an illegal boiler and an un-permitted sidewalk shed, but the city has not inspected these complaints yet, according to online documents.

The Buildings Dept., The Brauser Group and Maverick Management, which owns 109 Washington, did not return calls for comment.





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