Rubble With a Cause

Redevelopment woes: Williamsburg residents yanked out by their roots

Mascia, 67, said the "Golden Girls," as she dubbed them, were separated. A 90-year-old sister-in-law moved to a nursing home, and another, age 87, moved in with her son on Long Island. Mascia found a studio apartment down the block.

The developer, Mike Choi, had wanted to buy the two adjacent buildings, Mascia said. "He had been trying to buy our two buildings before this incident for years, and even afterwards he had the audacity to say, I'll give you $450,000 for the property and you can live in the [new] building," Mascia said. "What a nerve. . . . I said, `You don't understand, Mr. Choi. We're not landlords. We're not developers. This is our home. This is our castle.' "

Asked if he had offered to buy Mascia's building, Choi said he didn't know. But, he said, he has been allowed to continue building at 22 Havemeyer Street and the problems have been resolved.

Out in the cold: The Owens family (clockwise from left: Pam, Daniel, Roger, and Joseph) in front of their vacated home
photo: Kate Englund
Out in the cold: The Owens family (clockwise from left: Pam, Daniel, Roger, and Joseph) in front of their vacated home

Ilyse Fink, spokeswoman for the Buildings Department, said the developer was fined $4,960. She said a vacate order was lifted on Mascia's building but one remained in place on another next to the construction.

Mascia said she didn't know the vacate order was lifted until after a local official (alerted by an inquiry from the Voice) told her. "The Buildings Department doesn't know what it's doing," Mascia said, adding her building was beyond repair.

The delayed city funding, noted Bikowski, would help neighborhood groups stop such abuses. "We need to research what's going on, follow up on every development, check records of landlords' harassment," he said. "We would increase the cooperation with the Department of Buildings."

In the meantime, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Greenpoint Democrat, has proposed legislation requiring developers to create escrow accounts to reimburse those displaced by faulty construction.

Owens said that ultimately he casts blame for what happened to him on the city for allowing such rapid change and then doing little to help those it hurt. "I have more anger for the city than I do for the builder," he said, adding that the builder, at least, found him an apartment. The pressure is not likely to ease: Owens said he got an unsolicited offer for his home even after it had just been ordered vacated. "Somebody came up to me that night," he said. "I said, `Listen pal, this isn't my investment . . . it's my home.' "


paulmoses@optonline.net.

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