Planks for the hospitality: Calls for city to board up dangerous ‘squatter house’

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Police need to stop sitting on their hands and board up a long-foreclosed house occupied by squatters, Mill Basin residents are demanding.

Officials have done little to tamp down on the problem — despite residents’ complaints — leaving locals frustrated and feeling like they have nowhere to turn, one neighbor said.

“I just feel going through the cops is a waste of time, I don’t know what else to do,” said Carol Faingold who lives next door to the E. 52nd Street flophouse between Avenues N and O. “My husband went to the precinct twice … and then we called on two or three occasions.”

A handful of squatters do drugs in front, block others’ driveways with their vehicles, and disturb neighbors with a loud generator at night, said block resident, who fear the situation will get worse as the weather warms.

The house’s legal owner must complain to the city to have the squatters evicted, according to New York squatter laws.

But it doesn’t have one.

Banks foreclosed on the building in 2008, and it changed hands among several lenders, landing at loan collector Ocwen Financial Corporation, which took over managing the property in 2014.

A spokeswoman for Ocwen said it does not own the building.

Councilman Alan Maisel’s (D–Marine Park) spokesman suggested residents call the 63rd Precinct — or 911 in an emergency.

This is not the first instance of squatters in recent years, but prior city response was swifter, another neighbor said.

“There was a house two houses down that was vacant,” said Rebecca Rosado. “The only reason we got help out of that is because when we called 311, they sent somebody.”

Department of Buildings is not responsible for squatter enforcement, but it may cite homeowners for failing to maintain safe housing conditions, including unguarded houses, a spokesman said.

The New York State Department of Financial Services will open an investigation that could result in fines to Ocwen, but it cannot order the house sealed, according to a spokesman.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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