A bitter tenant-landlord feud ended July 8 after a roof collapse forced residents to evacuate a Cornelia Street rowhouse, which will conveniently clear the way for the owner to begin long-planned renovation work.
Neighbors cite dangerous living conditions in the three-unit building; one called it a "hellhole." According to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), owner Lavender Residence LLC has racked up 42 open violations this year alone, including for removal of building necessities like fire escapes, lights in public hallways, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Dept. of Buildings (DOB) records show that tenants reported the rowhouse multiple times for unsafe living conditions. According to a complaint filed in May, a tenant reported holes on the first floor where the basement was visible — “someone’s foot can go through” — and renovations being done outside of what the work permits allowed. Another complaint alleges Lavender filed an application with the DOB claiming the building was vacant while tenants in fact still lived there and were being affected by ongoing construction.
Lavender Residence LLC, headquartered at 199 Lee Ave in South Williamsburg, has no telephone number but work permits show Building USA LLC has permits to work on the Cornelia rowhouse. Building USA owns the infamous "Ocean Blue Residence" on Palmetto Street, painted in a shocking checkerboard pattern in shades of blue.
A spokesman for Building USA told BushwickBK they don’t know who owns Lavender and that they “just worked together” on the building. But HPD records show Abe Green, who owns Building USA, is also listed as an owner for Lavender. In October BushwickBK spoke with Abe Green, who said he had plans to build a second checkerboard building — with a lavender color scheme. Although Building USA would not say if 85 Cornelia would be the lavender checkerboard building, a representative of Apple Associates, who manages the rentals at the Palmetto building, confirmed it would.
Abe Green refused to comment for this story after numerous attempts to contact him, and the spokesman for both Building USA and Apple Associates claimed the person who had information on the “real owners” of Lavender LLC was "at a work site" and could not be reached.
Luther “Dreads” Smith, a neighbor of 85 Cornelia, told BushwickBK that the owner told him he wanted to “move in yuppies” after everyone was evicted. The building is the only one on the block that is rent stabilized.
“They offered them money to buy them out and only the first- and second-floor tenants took it and moved out three weeks ago,” said Dreads. According to him, the 3rd floor tenants were the sole holdouts and refused to take the buy-out money offered by the landlord.
FDNY determined the building unsafe after the roof partially collapsed shortly after midnight on July 8, forcing officials to boot everyone from the rowhouse and barring anyone from returning. Dreads claims workers were still working on the rowhouse at the time of the accident, which Building USA denies. “This was an unforeseen. We were there to make the building structurally safe,” said the company’s spokesman.
A stop work order currently exists on the property, which is one of a distinct row of Victorian rowhomes built in 1888, a few of which still have their original ornamentation. A glimpse of intact cornice is visible under the current vinyl siding.
The Building USA spokesman said the plans to move forward with the renovations are unchanged; they hope to complete work by the fall on what will be Bushwick’s second checkerboard building. Green had promised more such renovations around the neighborhood in the future.
The whereabouts of the remaining family aren’t known but Dreads said he heard they had moved in with relatives.
"They had kids and the floor was sagging after the collapse," he said. "I wish them all the best, this is a sad situation."