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City officials are ramping up efforts to inform individuals about illegal apartments following complaints by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and borough residents that too many college students are crammed into area homes, Queens Department of Buildings Commissioner Ira Gluckman told a Community Board 8 meeting last week.
“For the next two weeks we’re having our inspectors go to various subway stations to hand out fliers with information about illegal apartments,” Gluckman said at the Nov. 18 meeting.
The flier says a tenant should look into the legality of his or her apartment if the bedroom is in the cellar or attic, if they get electricity with an extension cord or if they lock their room with a padlock. It comes on the heels of Padavan’s October letter to Gluckman, in which he said there are at least 11 houses illegally inhabited by St. John’s University students in the Fresh Meadows and Jamaica Estates area.
The commissioner said DOB officials went to inspect each of the houses and confirmed that two were legal residences, gave one home two violations for subdividing the house and gave another residence one violation for creating an apartment in the attic. Inspectors were denied access to the other seven houses and Gluckman said they are not permitted to force their way into a house.
“We can get access warrants, but judges aren’t happy to give these out readily,” Gluckman said.
Community Board 8 Chairman Alvin Warshaviak and Public Safety Committee Chairman Mark Lefkof said they were concerned about the number of St. John’s students illegally inhabiting area homes.
“This is a very serious problem that affects our quality of life,” Warshaviak said.
Lefkof pointed out that more landlords are prone to rent out their homes because of the rough economic climate.
“No more than four unrelated individuals may live in a house, but as many as six, seven, eight students are renting the houses,” Lefkof said.
Lefkof and Padavan said students have loud parties that end in the early hours of the morning, upsetting their older neighbors.
“We’ll go to bed at 10 or 11 [p.m.], when the parties will start,” Lefkof said. “At 2 or 3 in the morning, there will be a ruckus going on.”
Gluckman said his department, and in particular the Quality of Life division, takes the issue of illegal apartments seriously.
“If we find an illegal occupancy, we’ll vacate them,” he said. “Last year we vacated over 1,100 buildings.”
Padavan said students at a home on Charlecote Ridge in Jamaica Estates held a party about which many of his constituents contacted him.
The state lawmaker wrote in the letter that “in the early hours of the morning, approximately 75 to 100 young adults, most of whom were St. John’s University students (many of whom were drinking) became rowdy, noisy and created a major disturbance awakening the neighbors, terrifying many of our senior citizens and requiring the police to disburse the crowd.”
Dex Khan of Mountainside Co., the landlord for the Charlecote home, said there are seven students living in the house.
“They are all quiet and respectful,” Khan said. “Sometimes they’ll have parties, but the parties will be quiet.”
St. John’s spokesman Dominic Scianna has said the university holds students accountable for their behavior on and off campus.
“While St. John’s does not have direct control over students residing in non-university housing, our Community Relations, Public Safety and Student Affairs offices work and communicate frequently with neighboring community groups to monitor and investigate complaints of this nature,” Scianna wrote in an e-mail in October.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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