Housing

Community board says local shelter is illegal

Shanice Carr

The building at 1073-1075 Hall Place was converted into a shelter without Community Board 2’s knowledge.

Same landlord has lied to them twice, they say

The landlord of a residential building in Longwood has been illegally operating it as a shelter for almost five years, but the city agency that pays him and the non-profit that serves the homeless families that live in the building, claim they had no idea.

An official from the city’s Department of Buildings told Community Board 2 at a meeting in June, that the owner of the shelter at 1073-1075 Hall Place has had no permit of occupancy for the building since December 2008.

The meeting had been set to discuss another Longwood building owned by the same landlord, Julius Ausch. Ausch converted that building, at 731 Southern Boulevard, into a shelter in 2009. Nineteen formerly homeless families were living on the top two floors of that building when the city discovered that the seventh and eigth floors had been added illegally. Local zoning caps residential buildings at six floors. The board alleges that Ausch knew he was flaunting local building codes.

“We asked him ‘Do you have any more businesses in the Bronx?’ and he told us no,” said the board’s District Manager Rafael Salamanca, recalling an exchange he had with Ausch before learning of the shelter on Hall Place.

“He shouldn’t have lied about this second building,” Salamanca said, adding that Ausch had responded, “It’s not in your jurisdiction,” when asked about it later. Both buildings are in Community Board 2.

The buildings department has issued Ausch fines totaling $9,000 so far for the building on Hall Place, said Kelly Magee, a spokeswoman for the department, adding “it is not legal for anyone to occupy the building.”

Joyce Campbell-Culler, chair of the community board’s housing committee, said she was outraged to hear that the landlord had lied to the board again.

“It is a total disrespect to the community. He not only cheated us but he cheated the taxpayers of New York,” she said.

Richard Lobel, a lawyer representing Ausch in the controversy over the Southern Boulevard shelter, said in a phone conversation he was unaware his client converted another building into a shelter.

But board members are angry about more than what they say are the landlord’s attempts to fool them. They say there is reason to be concerned for the safety of the homeless families who live in the buildings.

“We are passionately against the illegality of this building,” said board chair Ian Amritt. “Without the right building approval and certificates, it places people eminently at risk.”

“The shelter operators should be held liable. It should be their responsibility to verify if there can be legal occupancy or suspend the contract,” Amritt continued.

Bishop Fernando Rodriguez, the director of New Hope, the non-profit run that operates both shelters, could not be reached for comment. A man answering the phone at a Bronx shelter run by New Hope, stated, “We can’t give that number out” and abruptly hung up.

The Department of Homeless Services did not respond to numerous phone calls from the Express, requesting comment.

The issue of unscrupulous landlords converting buildings into shelters in order to hike their profits hits home for Amritt, the board chair. The city moved members of his family out of the shelter on Southern Boulevard after they found out about the legal troubles, he said.

“People still see Hunts Point as a dumping ground and a way to manipulate the system,” Amritt lamented. “Somebody needs to be held responsible.”

“We need a rally against shelter owners like this,” said Campbell-Culler.

 

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