The problem-plagued building designed by architect Robert Scarano at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens is still empty and its future uncertain. The last we reported on the matter, back in October, it seemed the city was on the verge of awarding a contract to shelter operator Aguila Inc. to turn the 10-unit apartment building into housing for 170 homeless men. The plan had been vehemently opposed by the community and local politicians who, after numerous meetings, rallies and a lawsuit, signed a petition, sent in written statements, and testified in person against the shelter at a routine city contract hearing October 17.
Then we heard nothing more. We happened to pass by the building recently and saw a vacate order tacked to the door, dated November 7. It seems somebody — perhaps the shelter operator, perhaps the landlord — doomed the enterprise by removing kitchens and doing other work without a permit. The Fire Department showed up, presumably in response to alarms or a call, to find the building “emitting dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide,” according to a post on the Facebook page of community group Coalition for Carroll Gardens. The Building Department was already there, posting vacate and stop work orders on the doors because of the unpermitted work.
Since then, there have been numerous complaints to the DOB and violations issued by the DOB. There are 18 open violations now, including a violation issued Wednesday with a $1,500 fine for submitting a false notarized statement and failing to certify as corrected an “immediately hazardous” Class 1 ECB violation related to an elevator inspection.
A lawsuit against the city by Coalition for Carroll Gardens over the legality of the proposal is still alive and in “rolling adjournment,” CCG chair Steven Miller told us. Theoretically, it would be possible to legally convert the building and its certificate of occupancy to a homeless shelter with the proper permits, but first the landlord would have to correct all the violations and pay more than $12,000 in fines.
Oddly, an application for plumbing work approved in January says the building is classed as “J-1 Residential (Hotels)” and has nine dwelling units, not 10. That is incorrect: The current C of O says the building is J-2 Residential (Apartment Houses) and has 10 dwelling units. Perhaps it is a case of wishful thinking: Last year, the landlord filed an Alt-1 permit to change the C of O to hotels/dormitories with nine dwelling units but that is “on hold,” according to the DOB file, pending a notice to revoke dated November 22, after the vacate order. (Just for the record, the notice to revoke was originally dated October 17.)
The application for the plumbing permit, which was submitted October 24, proposes “alteration and legalization of plumbing work including removal and replacement of fixtures. No change to use, occupancy or egress is proposed under this application all work done under this application will be under the 2008 code.” It seems surprising the DOB approved a permit to alter and legalize plumbing for nine hotel units, which would in fact be a change to use and occupancy.
“Our position is firm,” said Miller. “We don’t think it’s an appropriate use,” he said, referring to housing 170 homeless men in a 10-unit apartment building. “We’re OK with residential.”
Update: A reader pointed out that Robert Hess, the city’s former commissioner of homeless services and the chairman and chief executive officer of proposed shelter operator Housing Solutions USA, passed away in December at the age of 57. We linked to the obits at the time of his death. His death may have contributed to the stalling of the project given his obvious political connections, said the reader. Sources we spoke to when we reported the story said they were unaware of any impact his death had on the project.
165 West 9th Street Coverage [Brownstoner]