City inspectors did not verify the landlord's non-compliance with the judge's order because they were unable to gain access to the affected apartment units in his building at 37-52 89th St. a city Web site run by the Housing Preservation and Development agency showed.The city brought the court action, called a comprehensive case, against the building due to its large number of housing violations, officials said. Following an October court decision, the property's owner, Nicholas Haros, was ordered to repair all outstanding housing violations in the building before last week's inspections, Housing Preservation and Development spokesman Neill Coleman said. The building had 484 open housing violations listed with the city Housing Web site this week.Haros bore no responsibility for the Dec. 15, 2004 fire that was ruled accidental by the Fire Department. The blaze killed a couple and left their three daughters severely burned and orphaned.Housing inspectors reported that they were not able to enter any of the 56 units they were told to investigate in the 89th Street building, the Housing Preservation Web site said, but tenants told a different story.In an informal canvass Saturday, residents from seven apartments that were to be looked at in the building said that no inspectors had tried to speak with them last week. Those residents said they were at home at the time that the inspectors were spotted in the 97-unit building on Thursday. One sixth-floor tenant, however, said inspectors did enter her apartment and verified that repairs unrelated to the fire had been made. The ordered repairs included making apartments 1F and 2F, which were damaged in the fire, livable again, Coleman said, yet a visit to the building Saturday revealed that apartment 2F lacked at least five windows and the interior remained charred. Haros, who owns 47 buildings in Queens and 34 in the Bronx, was ranked the sixth worst landlord in the city by a housing advocacy coalition called Housing Here and Now. Among his 81 properties citywide, Coleman said Haros had more than 16,000 housing code violations in January. In a December report, Housing said Haros had 6,998 violations in Queens alone.Richard Neubarth, an attorney representing Nicholas Haros, said he would not comment for this article.City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona) scheduled a news conference this week at a Haros building in Jackson Heights to call for the revocation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax abatements that the landlord receives annually.Haros was granted more than $55,000 in relief in 2006 for one type of property tax reduction, called the J-51 Abatement, designed to reward landlords for improving their buildings. He had been receiving the tax benefit despite a Housing Preservation rule indicating that in many instances he should be ineligible. That rule conflicts with a city law that says the benefit is legal.Department of Finance spokesman Owen Stone said Tuesday his agency "will look at different ways to alter the (city law) to honor the spirit of the HPD rule."Robert McCreanor, staff attorney for the Tenants Advocacy Project of the Catholic Migration Office of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, has successfully forced Haros to repair more than 200 violations in eight buildings over the past six months. He said city enforcement of court orders were not aggressive enough and he often heard from renters telling him that they would wait for city inspectors who never showed up."They wait home all day in anticipation of a city inspector" that they never see, he said. "That is very common on inspection day."He added that he has been pushing the office of state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to investigate Haros' operation."That is why we want the attorney general to look into this because city enforcement makes it very comfortable for him to do business this way."Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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