A group of small business owners say their rental properties have been slipping into disrepair for more than six years and the damages have also eaten into their bottom line. What’s worse, they say, the buildings are on a bridge over Long Island Rail Road tracks. They fear falling debris could be dangerous for commuters. NY1's Van Tieu filed the following report.
It's hard enough being a small business owner, but Natalie Reid, owner of Thyme Market, said it's worse when the building she rents is crumbling beneath her feet. She pointed to a hole in the back storage room. At one point, the train tracks below could be seen, but now it’s simply boarded up with plywood.
From old wiring and burst pipes, to falling pieces of patchwork on the buildings’ facades, these are the type of repairs she and other merchants have been dealing with for more than six years.
"There’s no real repairs done- it’s just putting a band aid on a small problem, "Reid explained.
So during a press conference with Council Member Karen Koslowitz on Wednesday, she and other merchants demanded repairs on their commercial rental spaces on Lefferts Boulevard between Austin and Grenfell streets. This part of Lefferts Boulevard may look like any other road, but it’s actually a bridge. Tracks for the Long Island Rail Road run under the building."
"What’s going to happen one day if a big chunk of that falls on to a train I mean you can only imagine the horror that could happen?" asked Reid.
The property is owned by the MTA, but under an agreement, it gave rental rights to a master licensee to maintain the buildings. The Master Licensees are husband and wife, Suresh and Zoya Kapoor. Mrs. Kapoor is the principal, but per a clause in the contract, Mr. Kapoor may act on her behalf.
Council member Koslowitz points out that Mr. Kapoor was convicted for tax evasion in 1987 when he ran MTA magazine stands.
"The MTA, against their own rules and regulations has not only allowed a convicted felon to be in charge of taking care of their property," Kosolowitz said.
The subtenants want to see Mr. Kapoor out of the picture.
"I wish I can pay directly to MTA. So they get all my money,” said one merchant.
Reid added, "We’re just little bitty business owners trying to make a living and these people don’t care. "
However, a spokesman for the MTA says Mr. Kapoor's participation is appropriate and he was reviewed in 2010. The 1987 conviction was outside of a 10 year window that the agency inquires about, and Mr. Kapoor re-earned the MTA’s trust, according to a letter from the MTA in 2010.
As for the current day needed repairs, MTA LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena wrote in a statement:
“We understand the concerns of Councilwoman Koslowitz and the community. The LIRR has conducted a detailed assessment of the property’s physical characteristics. With the results in hand, we’re now working with all parties, including Zee N Kay Management, subtenants, and the MTA’s system-wide property management company, to ensure that all parties adhere to the responsibilities they agreed to in signing lease and sublease agreements. We will ensure that electrical, plumbing, architectural and structural issues that have been identified will be attended to in a short time.”