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Deplorable Conditions Send Inwood Building Residents To Streets

Red Cross Steps In To Help People Who Live On Academy Street
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552 Academy St.

The building at 552 Academy St. up in Inwood is in such bad shape city officials temporarily closed it and sent all of its residents to the streets on Feb. 18, 2011. (Photo: CBS 2)

hazelsanchez Hazel Sanchez
Hazel Sanchez joined CBS 2 in 2000 as a general assignment...
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They were forced out.

Dozens of families in Upper Manhattan were suddenly homeless Friday night after their apartment building was deemed too dangerous to live in, reports CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

With barely a moment’s notice, dozens of Inwood residents living in a dilapidated building found themselves carting their belongings on the street.

Tenant Steven Espaillat and his mother said they were stunned.

“I just go in and they tell me that I just have a few hours to pack up, just to go,” Espaillat said.

The Department of Buildings evacuated 552 Academy St. after discovering the building in deplorable condition, sighting more than 1,000 open housing code violations.

“In the kitchen it’s all uneven the floor. And they have no gas. They have no gas for a year almost,” resident Rosy Rexach said.

Red Cross set up at a nearby school to help tenants find temporary shelter.

“This particular building has had a lot of violations already and they came back checking up on those and discovered even more of them. That’s why they said forget it and they filed to vacate,” said Rebecca Callahan of the Red Cross.

The city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development said it’s very familiar with the building owner, Ocelot Capital Group. The Department said Ocelot has defaulted on several properties it has failed to maintain, and in 2009 an independent administrator took over the maintenance of the Academy Avenue property after tenants petitioned for the city’s help.

“A few years ago something happened. The same thing. We had to get out because the building was going to fall,” a resident said.

The city is still evaluating the building to see if it can improve the conditions enough to allow tenants to return. In the meantime, dozens are still reeling from the shock of a sudden eviction — fearful they’ll have to find new housing.

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