Two condo owners on the Lower East Side are accused of altering their five-story building to create a sixth floor, where they built illegal micro units without any windows or fire safety systems, according to the city Department of Buildings.
The DOB was tipped off to the hazardous living conditions by a 311 complaint, which alleged there were illegal subdivisions of an apartment on the sixth floor at 165 Henry St., a DOB spokesman said. However, the building only has five floors.
When inspectors arrived at the building on Wednesday, they found condo unit 601 had been divided horizontally, with a new floor constructed in between the fourth and fifth floors and nine illegal one-room subdivisions set up inside. The ceiling heights of the illegal apartments ranged from 4.5 feet to 6 feet depending on location, according to the DOB.
The illegal units did not have windows, sprinklers or fire safety systems, and unpermitted plumbing and electrical work was discovered as well, the inspectors found.
Two days later, DOB inspectors returned to the building at the request of the FDNY to investigate a similar illegal conversion setup at apartment 701, which is on the same floor. Those illegal apartments lacked ventilation, fire safety systems and unobstructed building exits, according to the inspectors.
Vacate orders were issued for both apartments. All of the affected tenants were offered assistance from the American Red Cross, the DOB spokesman said.
Requests for comment from the condo owners, identified by the Department of Buildings as Xue Pin Ni and Jin Ya Lin, were not immediately returned.
The DOB stressed in a statement on Monday that such illegal construction and apartment subdivisions are extremely dangerous.
“Every New Yorker deserves a safe and legal place to live, which is why we’re committed to routing out dangerous firetraps and ordering the landlords to make these apartments safe," the spokesman said. "Tenants living in truncated windowless dwelling units like this poses an extreme hazard to their safety, as well as the safety of their neighbors, and first responders."
Ni, who owns unit 601, faces up to $144,750 in civil penalties. Lin, who owns unit 701, faces up to $139,750 in penalties. Additionally, both face a daily fine of $1,000 for each illegal micro apartment for a maximum of 45 days or until they are taken down.
"Dangerous living conditions like this cannot be tolerated in our city, and we are holding these landlords accountable for their egregious failure to keep the building safe and livable for tenants," the DOB spokesman added.