Demolition Drama at 143 Ludlow Street

Posted on: August 10th, 2012 at 6:09 am by and

Imagine that every night before going to bed, your apartment was sealed from the outside with plastic nailed to the door? While it sounds like a scene straight out of ET, this is routine for residents of 143 Ludlow Street.

THE PURCHASE

143 Ludlow Street was recently purchased by Samy Mahfar’s SMA Equities. Mahfar also recently acquired four vacant Lower East Side parcels on East Houston near Attorney Street. Documents filed with the city reveal that a special LLC was set up (143 Ludlow SM LLC) for the $5.2 million transaction. That sale officially hit the books just a couple weeks ago. The more controversial part of the news, however, is the action taken after closing. The new owner proceeded to, according to a neighbor,  aggressively demolish five apartments inside the mid-block tenement, and residents are alleging the illegalities of this work.

Apt #18

THE HUMAN CONDITION

From the moment gutting began at 143 Ludlow Street, “Priority A” emergency complaints appeared in the DOB database. The combination of dangerous living conditions and stability of the apartments have left the handful of remaining tenants inside the building rather worried. The situation escalated last week when firefighters were called to the scene after a gas pipe was jarred loose, and the scent permeated the upper floors. We happened to be ambling past the building around that time and contractors were still busy unloading bales of debris into a specialty garbage truck.

Meanwhile, for almost a week, holes in the stairway walls were exposed, leaving voids that easily cleared six stories. The issue wasn’t remedied immediately, but was eventually patched. In addition, apartment #18 lost a load-bearing wall which hasn’t been replaced, and #17 was boarded up and declared structurally unsound after a 2005 fire. The fire wall between the units was breached, and the scorched scars are still visible seven years later.

Apt. #17, fire-damaged truss without scaffolding

THE GOVERNMENT

Equally troubling to the living conditions is the enforcement of proper safety procedure…or seemingly lack thereof. The DOB maintains that all work is currently in compliance with approved plans and permits, however a source familiar with the situation disagrees. The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, reveals that building inspectors arrive on scene frequently, yet fail to cease demolition despite “20+ likely causes for a stop-work order.” What’s more, several of these inspectors (badges #2442, #2335, and #0338) allegedly close out caller complaints remotely and without a proper site visit. As a result, DOB is currently amidst an internal investigation. Something’s definitely fishy here.

When reached for comment, the DOB press department stressed that the building has already been inspected more than ten times, and all was found “in compliance with approved plans and permits.” With regard to remote complaint resolutions, the DOB chalks that up to the appearance of duplicate complaints in the system. While entirely plausible that multiple complaints are being made for similar issues, the fact remains that residents are living in dangerous conditions and yet the construction continues.

Is this building the next to fall victim to the age-old ploy by new owners to kick out long-time tenants for upscaling? From a distance, it seems very likely and we’ll continue to follow this story and report as new details emerge.

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