Hell house was painted over last week, but local Sheepshead Bay residents remain fearful.
Two side-by-side rooming houses, also known as single room occupancy (SRO) buildings, continue to cause concern in the neighborhood.
The two are located at 1809 and 1811 Voorhies Avenue – a block and a half from Sheepshead Bay Road.
Last week one of the homes – 1811 Voorhies – had graffiti scrawled all over it stating among other things, “Welcome to Hell” and “Bed Bugs Paradise.”
Local residents and merchants said the two three-story homes have long been havens for mainly Russian and Latin American immigrants, and several are believed to be drug addicts and vagrants.
“About a month ago some people broke car mirrors along Sheepshead Bay Road and then ran into the house,” said one longtime Sheepshead Bay merchant. “There used to be a lot of these boarding houses in the bay years ago.”
According to city records, both buildings are approved only for SRO, and the owners, Iliya Honovich and Vladimir Parsol, maintain they would like to change this status.
“Having an SRO is like a suicide deal. There’s always going to be some kind of problem. There’s always bums and weird people that live there,” said Honovich, adding there are about 24 rooms between the two houses that go for about $450 monthly with a bathroom and shower on each floor.
Honovich said a few years ago they applied for a variance to turn the properties into condos but Community Board 15 rejected it.
Now with the downturn in the economy it doesn’t make sense to turn them into condos, he said.
Honovich suggested the city subcontract the sites to them to use as a homeless shelter or halfway house. This way the city would guarantee the rent allowing them to afford security and better maintenance, he said.
Honovich said under the current situation, most of the tenants don’t pay their rent on time and some are well behind. Evicting them and turning the building into a two-family home would take a lengthy battle through housing court, he said.
“I could write a book about it,” said Honovich. “You cannot evict people if they pay rent, so that’s another headache.”
Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo said the community board turned down the owners’ request to turn the houses into condos because the community thought there were too many condos already in the neighborhood.
Scavo also noted the owners could have gone above their head to get the variance through the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.
“I can’t believe since 2006 these people haven’t done anything,” said Scavo.
Scavo said she doesn’t see the community offering any support in turning the buildings into a halfway house or shelter through the city.
Local resident Kenneth Silver said he is bewildered that City Councilmember Mike Nelson’s office is about two blocks away at 1605 Voorhies Avenue, and he hasn’t done anything about the situation.
Nelson spokesperson Steve Zeltser said the council member can’t just walk into somebody’s private home and tell them what to do.
“The office is looking into the situation,” he added.