Sunset Park landlord who converted house into 12-family building fined $150,000

illegal conversions
The landlord of 370 50th Street must pay $150,000 in fines after a fire ravaged the illegally-converted house.
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City officials slapped the landlord of Sunset Park house that burst into flames in July with $150,000 in fines for illegally subdividing the two-family home into 12 units. 

Min Ru Zheng, who owns the townhouse at 370 50th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, illegally erected walls within the his two-story building to create 12 independent rooms with shared bathrooms and kitchens, according to Grace Munns, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings. 

The building’s cellar, basement, first, and second floors each contained three units, where least nine families lived, including 16 adults, six children, and three pets, according to the Red Cross. 

In July, an inferno broke out on the roof of the house at 3 am and consumed the building’s upper floor. Firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour before quelling it, and first responders transported three firefighters and one civilian to a nearby hospital with minor injuries, authorities said. 

The Department of Buildings was called to the scene following the fire for a structural stability inspection, which was when inspectors discovered the illegal conversions, Munns said. The department issued a full vacate order and 14 violations to the landlord for illegal occupancy, illegal gas and water plumbing work, and the illegal installation of three new boilers and a new water tank, among other violations. 

In January, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings upheld the violations, forcing Zheng to fork over the cash. Zheng may be forced to hand over $6,000 more for failing to remedy some of the violations in November, although the house is currently up to code, the department said. 

The incident is one of several fires that have torn through illegal conversions over the past two years, including a three-alarm blaze that burned through a two-story Bensonhurst building in February that displaced 29 residents.