Landmark case: City to sue owner of crumbling building

Landmark case: City to sue owner of crumbling building
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

The city may sue a prominent ethnic organization for neglecting a landmarked building that it owns.

An attorney with the Landmarks Preservation Commission sent an e-mail to a Borough Hall staffer outlining the city’s plans to use the courts to push the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, which owns the 68th Precinct Station House and Stable in Sunset Park, to fix up the crumbling buildings.

“Draft legal papers have been prepared to bring a lawsuit against the owners of the landmark and the matter has been referred to the New York City Law Department for legal action,” according to the e-mail, circulated by a Sunset Park activist. “Because the owner is a nonprofit organization, I am hopeful that prior to a lawsuit commencing, or shortly after our first court appearance, the owner will sell the landmark to someone who will be able to quickly obtain permits and make the necessary repairs.”

The Brooklyn Chinese-American Association purchased the building for $125,000 in 1999, property records show.

The group hoped to open a community center there but couldn’t come up with the cash to fix the crumbling buildings, according to a 2012 Daily News article.

The association did not return multiple requests for comment.

The city is not trying to push the association out of the building, a Landmarks spokeswoman said, only to get the necessary repairs done soon.

“The commission does not have a preference whether the work is done by current owner or a new owner, as long as its done in a timely fashion,” said spokeswoman Damaris Olivo.

The city considered suing in 2012, but the association said it was planning to sell the building. With no movement on that front, the city is again pursuing legal action against the association — as a last resort, Olivo said.

“As there have been no developments in the sale of the building, the commission must now move forward to protect and preserve this landmark,” she said. “Sending a matter to the Law Department is only done after extensive efforts are made to have the owner voluntarily repair his or her building.”

The buildings on Fourth Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets were erected in 1886 and last used in 1970. The city designated them landmarks in 1983. Landmarked buildings cannot be demolished, but some landlords allow the buildings to deteriorate beyond repair in order to sell the land to developers.

The commission is currently pursuing 30 cases of potential demolition by neglect, but most are resolved before they go to court, a spokeswoman said.

Preservation group Sunset Park Restoration asked Borough Hall to urge the commission to protect the building, and it’s leader said he is now confident in the building’s future.

“The members of Sunset Park Restoration are very pleased that this may finally signal the end of their worries about losing the building,” said activist Tony Giordano.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeg‌[email protected]‌gloca‌l.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.