Exclusive: Brooklyn building owner builds illegal roof deck despite stop work order

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Investigative reporter Jim Hoffer has the details.

After a building owner in Brooklyn continued installing a heavy roof deck despite a stop work order, residents concerned about a collapse reached out to the Eyewitness News Investigators.

Just weeks ago, a resident at the Crown Heights apartment building recorded a police officer urging the Department of Buildings to send an inspector immediately and stop the illegal construction that could be unsafe.

"You might want to send someone to respond a little sooner than 24 hours," the officer said. "They are currently loading wood up on the roof....It's kind of imperative you come here to get this work stopped, because what I'm being told is the roof is not able to handle the weight being put on the roof, and it could cause a collapse."

Last September, an inspector issued a stop work order when the owner began building the huge wood deck without permit. It was meant to be part of renovations to attract higher paying renters, and the owner repeatedly ignored the order, which tenant Tarek Elabsy had documented.

"This roof can collapse any minute with that added weight on it," Elabsy said.

But the owner continued building through December as worried residents complained to the buildings department again and again and even took video of the owner and workers as proof.

But where were city inspectors to stop the illegal and potentially unsafe construction that was visible to anyone who visited the roof?

Bayie Babolele, a longtime tenant and former super at the building, said the roof is very old and that he didn't think it could handle the extra weight.

Five days after we caught builders putting up deck railing, city inspectors finally hit the owner with serious fines totaling $15,000.

Minerva Figueroa, who lives in a top-floor apartment, said the nearly-completed wooden deck weighs heavily on the roof, and on her mind.

"I noticed the cracks getting larger and larger and larger," she said. "No one has come to tell me you're safe, Minerva. That's the only question I want answered, am I safe?"

When we caught up with the building owner, he refused to answer any questions about the illegal deck or potential safety issues.

A spokesman for the building's department called the owner's conduct "outrageous and unlawful," and he says the owner has 10 days to remove the deck or possibly face criminal charges and thousands in additional fines.

The spokesman added that the roof is structurally sound.
Related Topics:
newsinvestigatorsinvestigationconstructionNew York CityCrown Heights
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