Op-ed: Trustee’s negligence cannot endanger the safety of the general public

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201 Brighton Road in Brighton Beach.

In December of 2019, Erica Tishman was struck and tragically killed by falling debris from an ill-maintained building in Midtown Manhattan. The property in question had been recently fined by the city for failing to maintain its exterior façade. In the wake of this unspeakable and avoidable incident, city officials stated that “no pedestrian should be at risk from dangerous façade conditions,” and rushed to conduct surprise inspections throughout the city where 200 properties were cited with significant violations that needed to be addressed immediately. 

In April of this year, a young boy heartbreakingly fell down an unsecured elevator shaft in the Bronx suffering significant head trauma. The boy’s building had received dozens of complaints over the years, including several violations involving elevators. 

In both instances, city officials had been notified of the buildings’ dangerous conditions but failed to hold the property owner accountable. We simply cannot let history repeat itself.   

Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before Roberta Koeppel’s portfolio of properties endangers the life of an unsuspecting New Yorker and makes headlines for a similar tragedy. 

Comprising a total of 10 residential and commercial properties in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long Island, Mrs. Koeppel’s buildings are poorly maintained and have received dozens of violations for their dangerous conditions that ultimately pose a great threat to the well-being of the general public and the tenants that pay to live and work in these buildings. 

Take for example 250 East 73rd Street which is situated in a high-foot traffic area only a block from the 72nd Street subway station, which sees millions of riders annually. Not to mention, the building is home to hundreds of hardworking New Yorkers and high-traffic commercial tenants including Little Vincent’s Pizza and the UPS Store. In a building that contains 108 residential units at 201 Brighton Road in Brighton Beach, very serious elevator violations are open. According to the Department of Buildings records, 147 complaints have been filed and the buildings have faced a combined 144 violations. And these are only two of the properties in her robust portfolio of residential and commercial properties. 

Mrs. Koeppel was ranked number 47 on the Public Advocates’ 2020 Worst Landlords Watchlist for only two of the ten properties and has been served hundreds of violations. Despite multiple appearances in front of the Surrogates Court, there has been no remedy to date. 

How many more New Yorkers must get hurt before significant action is taken? 

Mrs. Koeppel and her appointed trustees are due back in court on June 24, all the while innocent lives are at risk day after day. City officials must take a stand and insist that the Surrogates Court and appointed trustees protect the people New York City residents. It is not absurd to insist that near these properties, the sky could indeed fall. 

Christopher Alvarado serves as the principal of his own law practice, The Law Office of Christopher J. Alvarado, P.C. and previously practiced real estate, landlord-tenant, and general litigation following his graduation from New York Law School.