UPDATE: Bklyn Heights building secured, thanks to our article

UPDATE: Bklyn Heights building secured, thanks to our article
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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The vacant building in Brooklyn Heights owned by real estate mogul Jared Kushner that sat unlocked for months and that a neighbor complained was an open invitation to ne’er-do-wells has been secured. Kushner Companies is converting the former Brooklyn Law School dorm building on Monroe Place between Pierrepont and Clark streets into a townhouse, and Jeffrey Smith, who lives across the street, said that it was left wide open to anyone who wanted in, and that fellow neighbors reported spotting trespassers on a weekly basis. That, he said, is a recipe for disaster.

“Unsecured buildings in this area are a classic prequel to you know what,” he said. “That’s surgical arson, daddy-o.”

The Monroe Place building is one of six Kushner bought from the law school earlier this year. The developer is now converting the four-story brownstone into a single-family home, according to permits filed with the buildings department.

Smith has lived on the block for 40 years, and remembers when fires in empty buildings were commonplace in the area, notably the suspicious fire at the Saint George Hotel on Henry Street in 1995 that took more than 700 firefighters to control. The blaze started in a vacant building in the hotel complex and consumed several adjacent structures, becoming one of the largest fires in the city’s history.

When Smith said neighbors complained about seeing people going in and out of the vacant building, he tried contacting the contractor listed on the work permit, as well as the Fire Department and the Department of Buildings.

Fire officials inspected the property on Nov. 21, after press inquiries, and were able to gain entry through the building’s unlocked basement. But the inspection did not reveal any fire hazards, so they could only recommend that the buildings department take a look.

An inspector from that agency stopped by on Nov. 24, but also found no violations, according to a spokesman. He called the building a trespassing problem that is the Police Department’s responsibility. Police officials did not respond to requests for information about the property or calls to it.

A spokeswoman from Kushner Companies said the problem had been fixed Monday, but by late afternoon a front window on the ground floor remained broken without locked security bars and an entrance to the basement remain unlocked. The situation was not rectified until the following morning. Smith, still in the embattled mindset of decades past, predicted the worst before the final fix.

“Everyone points fingers at each other until the flames are coming out of the windows,” Smith said.

Upon hearing of the added security measures, he wondered why it took phoning a reporter for common sense to prevail.

“Why is it that there are no laws or regulations for this?” he said.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.