Building owner faulted for not clearing vacate order

Rent-stabilized tenant had been forcibly removed from apartment after structural weakness was discovered. After receiving complaints that 223 East 96th Street was shaking, an HPD inspector observed cracks in the rear wall caused by construction taking place on the building next door. In August 2004, the Department of Buildings determined that the building was unsafe and issued a vacate order. Police and firefighters forcibly removed Thelma Farrell, an 81-year old, rent -stabilized tenant from her rear apartment and took her to Lenox Hill Hospital. Later, Farrell was transferred to a nursing home where, as of October 2005, she still remained.

Farrell sued the owner of the building, E.GA. Associates, Inc., to compel it to correct any outstanding violations and take the necessary steps for Buildings to rescind the vacate order. At trial, a Buildings inspector testified that the construction company working next door had shored up the rear wall with beams, and all that was required for Buildings to rescind the vacate order was for E.GA. to submit an engineer’s report attesting to the stabilization and for Buildings to make a final inspection. E.GA. countered that it was economically infeasible for it to rehabilitate the building and that it would cost more than the building was worth.

On October 4, 2005, Judge Gerald Lebovits ordered E.GA. to correct any outstanding violations within 24 hours of receiving the court order and insure that Buildings rescind the vacate order. Judge Lebovits ruled that stabilization of the structure, not rehabilitation, was required to rescind the order and that E.G.A.’s testimony on costs of rehabilitating the building was irrelevant. The court concluded that E.G.A. was erecting roadblocks to prevent Farrell and other rent-regulated tenants from returning to their homes.

Farrell v. EGA Assoc., Inc., 9 Misc. 3d 1 118(A), Oct. 4, 2005 (N.Y.City Civ.Ct.) (Levovits, J.) (Attorneys: Rita 1. Tartaglia, for Farrell; Jason S. Garber, for EGA).

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