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Buildings irk some Forest Hills residents

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A dilapidated house and an illegally overcrowded building in Forest Hills are plaguing a neighborhood usually known for being well-kept, Forest Hills Community and Civic Association President Barbara Stuchinski said.

“It is really bad,” Stuchinski said. “They are such an eyesore.”

Residents have long been concerned about the houses on Manse Street and 69th Avenue and have been filing complaints with the city about the sites for two years.

The house at 70-23 Manse St. has racked up $34,000 in fines in city Department of Buildings violations, including failure to fix a hole in the roof and maintain the structure’s walls. The house at 90-17 69th Ave. has been slapped with $22,000 in fines from the DOB for such violations as conducting work without a permit and illegal occupancy. Stuchinski said the house has been illegally converted into an eight-bedroom unit.

“With the conditions of the homes on Manse Street and 69th Avenue in need of great attention, I am working with the leaders and residents of the community to make sure that both the safety and quality of life of the area is adequately protected,” City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said.

The Manse Street unit is owned by Marilyn Hargrove, according to city records. Neighbors said Hargrove has long lived in the house, but noted they have not seen her in a while, which they said raised concerns that she is dead. No one answered when a reporter knocked on the door last week and a phone number for Hargrove is not listed.

With weeds growing more than two stories high, Hargrove’s house has been a persistent eyesore in a quiet neighborhood where residents take pride in taking care of their homes, Stuchinski said. Since many of the homes were built in the 1920s, the Forest Hills neighborhood has been relatively well-maintained and has attracted a number of foreign diplomats, including the Indonesian ambassador to the United Nations, Stuchinski said.

The house on Manse Street could pose dangerous to neighbors and passersby because of its dilapidated state, including a roof that has partially caved in, Stuchinski said.

Several blocks from the Manse Street house, the house at 69th Avenue has been served with a partial vacate order due to what the city said was illegal occupation, as well as a stop work order due to conducting construction without a permit.

No one answered the door at the 69th Avenue home, and the owner, Gloria Roncancio, was unavailable for comment.

Stuchinski said she was not only concerned about the illegal occupation at the 69th Avenue house, but also the partially collapsed porch, the exposed wiring hanging from the side of the second floor and the plywood that covers part of the doorway and some of the windows.

“If there are eight bedrooms, where are your fire exits?” Stuchinski said. “These are supposed to be one-to-two-family houses. If anything goes wrong in that house, the house next door goes up with it.”

A DOB spokeswoman said the property owners need to rectify the problems.

“The department has issued violations to the property owner for various condition, and the owner is responsible for correcting those conditions,” the spokeswoman said. “If anyone would like to report an unsafet building condition, please call 311, and a department inspector will investigate.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 6:00 pm, October 10, 2011
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