Updated 02/18/2011 11:28 PM
Inwood Residents Forced Out Of Unsafe Building Onto Street
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Dozens of residents in Inwood, Manhattan were forced out of their homes Friday after their building was deemed unsafe.
Families packed suitcases, boxes and bags with whatever they could carry after the Tenants Association of 552 and 556 Academy Avenue told them they had to evacuate.
The five-story building, which has 76 apartments in it, was forced by the Department of Buildings to vacate.
"Con Edison, the fire department and the Red Cross came banging on everybody's door, telling them they have three hours to pack up and to leave," said a resident.
"Supposedly there is a wall in the back that might collapse," said Iris Burtoni, a resident and a building association member.
Residents told NY1 the place has 998 violations, and that some tenants have not had cooking gas since 2006.
"For over 10 years, Rachel Afra, who is the landlord that holds the deed to this building has been keeping the tenants living with [these] violations," said Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
Yvonne Stennet was appointed by the city to take the building over from the landlord and run it in 2009.
"We have not been able to do anything because it was so bad in the first place," said Stennet. "In terms of organizing tenants and getting rent rolls in place, we've been fine, but when it comes to the structural defect of the building, that came with the 7a appointment."
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Buildings and elected officials began working together to come up with the money for a gut renovation. However, the $15 million to $17 million it will take did not come in time to keep these residents in their homes this holiday weekend.
Some residents have packed U-Haul trucks and others tried to find places to stay.
"Where I am going to sleep tonight, I don't know," said Burtoni. "Last time they evacuated, I slept in my car."
"What they say is 'Take the things that you can take out,' but most of the things that we take outside, they're not going to put these things in storage. What are we going to do?" said one mother.
This time, the Red Cross set up shelter for 34 families so far and is ready to help anyone else in need.
Families have been told to report to a local school to stay until Tuesday, when they will start the process of finding new residences.
HPD officials said they were starting this weekend to look at how to address the building's structural problems and to come up with a timeline for when and if the residents could ever be able to return.