Dispatches from the Frigid Mass Eviction at 475 Kent in South Williamsburg
Last night, around 7PM, a reader emailed us to say that the NYPD and FDNY were trying to clear a building at 475 Kent Avenue in South Williamsburg. Apparently, the building has a variety of fire and building code violations and, for some reason, it was decided to clear the building on one of the colder nights of the winter. A lot of residents of the building, which housed more than a hundred people, many of them artists, called TV and newspapers. (Anyone that's ever been down Berry or Wythe Avenue, especially at night when it's all lit up, knows the building.) Here is some of what our own reader, who was hiding out in his apartment, hoping to outlast the furor, wrote as the night progressed. The first email came in at 6:52PM:
There are cops and firefighters roaming the halls of my building in south williamsburg telling everyone that the "building is being vacated" at this very moment. my building has about 100 or so people in it and is located at 475 kent ave. apparently there are numerous fire code violations and such. but, instead of trying to fix them, they are attempting to put 100 or so folks on the street on a 20 degree sunday night. i've refused to go anywhere. i have a dog and i have don't know that i can take her anywhere. what really bothers me is that the FDNY believes that my safety is being enhanced by putting myself and my dog on the street on a night where we could both literally freeze to death. this is real and it is indeed happening right now.A bit later, around 8:00, we got this added detail:
there was FDNY, NYPD as well as the dept of health here. at that time it appeared that the PTB were going to come down hard on our landlord. i never imagined that they would "vacate" the entire building. now that is indeed happening and i am laying low with my dog in hopes that they just go home. i have a feeling that ain't gonna happen as there are two fire engines, three cop cars and DOH vehicle right outside my front door all with lights a blazin'. at some point, i will have to empty the dog and i'm pretty damn sure i won't be allowed back into my own home.And, here is the text of the eviction order, retyped and emailed to us at 9PM:
THE FIRE COMMISIONER ORDERS YOU FORTHWITH that all business and excuses being laid aside, you and each of you immediately vacate the above described premises, for the reason that the conditions in said premises are immediately perilous to life in the case of fire therein or adjacent thereto by reason of:Around 9:30PM we got another email that said "okay, this about to be real ugly. they are talking about breaking down doors." At 10:06 AM we got an email that news crews were on the scene. Then, at 11PM, this arrived:
(Handwritten) (1) Illegal conversion of a commercial occupancy into a multiple dwelling. (2) Illegal grain silos in cellar each 10' feet high + 15' feet wide containing grain and approx 200-35 gallon plastic garbage pails containing (illegible illegible illegible) of grain which is a high hazard (illegible) causing an explosive hazard. (3) Illegal storage of items creating an extreme fire hazard. (4) Required sprinkler system inoperable throughout structure and in need of repair.
The document continues:
THE FIRE COMMISSIONER FURTHER ORDERS that these premises shall remain sealed and vacated and padlocked until such time asthe hazardous conditions described herein have been corrected and the Fire Commissioner, in writing, rescinds this order. This Vacate and Seal Order is issued pursuant to Section 15-227 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York.
FAILURE TO COMPLY with this Vacate and Seal Order forthwith may subject you court proceedings and is punishable as a criminal misdemeanor with a maximum of one year imprisonment and civil fines up to one million dollars.
An owner, lessor, lessee or mortgagee may request in writing a hearing to determine if this Order was properly written requests for a hearing should be delivered to the New York City Fire Department, Legal Division, 250 Livingston Street, Room 820, Brooklyn, NY 11201-5884. Hearings are available within three business days after receipt of th written request.
tonight before 1:30AM the (FDNY) says they will padlock the building. once again, how does putting me on the street make me safe and, given the fact that i'm not about to do any such thing, padlocking my building make me any safer? it seems as if they are taking a fire hazard and making it a fire trap. wtf?It was 21 degrees out when these emails started and around 18 when the last one was sent. Among the violations found was an illegal matzo factory in the basement and small grain storage silos. Undoubtedly, there were serious issues in the building, but the temperature overnight was expected to fall as low as 14 degrees with wind chills of 10 below zero. While fire code violations are serious, they were presumably longstanding. The question arises: were they indeed so life threatening as to put 100 people into a different kind of life-threatening emergency situation?
- City Evacuates 11-Story Building in Brookly, Citing Safety [NYT]
- Illegal School, Matzo Factory Shut [NYDN]
- Matzo Bawl at Building [NYP]
- Dear Senator Connor, Assemblyman Lentol and Coucnilman Yassky [Albany Project]
- 475 Kent Avenue Evacuated [Gothamist]