An individual involved in the construction of a Forest Hills home that has been fined nearly $200,000 for disregarding a number of stop-work orders has been accused of falsely certifying that he inspected a Brooklyn building where a city firefighter was injured after balconies collapsed, city officials said.
Vasilios Kourkoumelis, 34, of Astoria, was charged last week in a Brooklyn court with two felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing, according to city Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.
“A professional who falsely certifies that a construction project follows the building code without even inspecting the job potentially puts the public at risk,” Gill Hearn said.
Kourkoumelis applied last year to enlarge the one-family attached town house at 110-46 63rd Road, which the city has slapped with $198,500 for, among other things, ignoring stop-work orders. Kourkoumelis himself has not been fined. But the home’s owner, Vadim Sezaynayev, and the owner of the construction company doing the renovations, Aleksey Shimonov, have been fined, according to city Department of Buildings documents.
Most recently, the DOB issued a stop-work order Nov. 19 that neighbors said has repeatedly been ignored.
Kourkoumelis did not return phone calls for comment. He faces up to four years in prison if found guilty on the felony counts, Gill Hearn said.
The city began investigating him after two floors of wooden balconies collapsed on the rear of a building at 222 Kings Highway in Brooklyn in December 2008, Gill Hearn said. A firefighter who had been battling a blaze at the site was injured.
DOB records show a violation had been issued at the building in September 1988 after its balconies were found not to be within the city’s building code and had been erected without a permit, Gill Hearn said.
But Kourkoumelis, who had been authorized to self-certify jobs with the city, had allegedly signed and affixed his professional engineer’s stamp to a report on the building he submitted to the DOB in January 2006, the DOI commissioner said. At that time, he was alleged to have indicated to the city that he had inspected the building’s balconies.
Kourkoumelis is accused of not inspecting the site to confirm whether violations at the site had been corrected or if the balconies had been built in compliance with the building’s plans, Gill Hearn said.
Residents on 63rd Road said the charges do not boost their confidence in the Forest Hills project and cited concerns that ongoing work could cause falling debris to harm passers-by, next-door neighbors or private property. No one who spoke to TimesLedger Newspapers would identify themselves for fear of retaliation from those involved in the construction project.
“I heard about what happened in Brooklyn, and I wasn’t surprised,” one neighbor said. “They do whatever they want there and don’t think about anyone in the neighborhood. You have to wonder if it’s just a matter of time before something bad happens there.”
A DOB inspector noted in the Nov. 19 report that workers were mixing cement/mortar and erecting stairs at the home regardless of the stop-work order issued because the construction was unsafe, according to the city.
There are currently nine open DOB violations and 11 open city Environmental Control Board violations for the Forest Hills home.
The construction caused the DOB to issue a vacate order for the next-door neighbor’s backyard. DOB officials said no one could enter the backyard because conditions could be “perilous to life.”
One area resident said she believed the next-door neighbors were recently able to go back into their yard, although the notice from the DOB still hangs in their window.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2009 Community News Group
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