Responding To Stove Blaze, Town Fire & Building Officials Discover Unlawfully Subdivided Single-Family Home Being Used As Boarding House Occupied By 19 Renters; Occupants Now Face The Boot Over Illegal Conditions
In Rockland County, New York, The Journal News reports:
- A stove fire Tuesday led fire and building officials to discover that 19 people were living in what they said was an illegal boardinghouse infested with bugs and trash.
Tenants said they were told by a Ramapo building inspector that they would likely be forced to leave the house within 30 days because of the conditions and because boardinghouses, including subdivided apartments, are illegal.
One of the property managers was heard over the phone admonishing a tenant for calling the Fire Department, essentially alerting authorities to the living conditions in the fairly affluent Oakwood Terrace neighborhood in the Ramapo village.
The manager, who identified himself to the village fire inspector as Yaniv Razak, told Inez Henriquez: “You don’t call the Fire Department over a spark. You’ll end up sleeping in a car. This is a big problem.”
Henriquez said she didn’t intend to cause any problems.
New Hempstead Fire Inspector Chris Kear said the 19 residents, including children, faced dangerous and unsanitary conditions while living in the single-family house at 8 Oakwood Terrace.
Razak works for Joseph Klein, a New Square resident and property manager who has been called a slumlord and cited for housing violations and running illegal boardinghouses.
- Kear said eight adults and five children lived on the first floor, where there were six bedrooms with locks on four of the doors.
In the basement, three adults and three children lived in makeshift apartments, where Kear said he found a 10-year-old boy alone Tuesday while his parents were at work.
The first-floor tenants paid an average of $500 a month per room, providing the owner with $3,000 a month for the floor. Kear said tenants think a similar room rent was charged for those living in the basement apartment.
Henriquez, 28, said she moved in two months ago but has spent only six nights in the house because of the bedbugs, mildew and other unsanitary conditions.
Pointing to the bites and red marks on her legs, Henriquez said that’s why she organized a house cleanup Tuesday, which inadvertently led to the stove catching fire.
Henriquez said she knows Klein because she lived in his boardinghouse on Pipetown Hill Road. Clarkstown fined Klein $5,000 and forced him to convert the structure back into single-family house.
Downstairs in the basement, a room she shared with her 8-year-old son had a small window, which Kear said was out of reach so it couldn’t be used as a fire escape.
Klein has been fined $5,000 each in Haverstraw and Clarkstown during the past two years for operating illegal housing, as well as $20,000 in Spring Valley and $8,500 in Ramapo. Several of his properties have faced foreclosure.
Beatrice Pierriseme, 23, said she pays $450 a month for one room she shares with her 3-year-old boy, a 6-month-old girl and her fiance. She’s been there for a few months and said the conditions are horrible.
“We just found out today it’s illegal,” Pierriseme said of the boardinghouse. “Living here isn’t great, but this is what we can afford. We were told they were going to shut it down in 30 days. We’re going to be looking.”