Keep up with the happenings in Sunset Park by Rachel Carmean

posted Mar 30, 2015, 6:14 AM by Sylwia Jasinski

Keep up with the happenings in Sunset Park.

View this email in your browser
By: Rachel Carmean 
Brown Harris Stevens Brooklyn, LLC

April 2015, Vol. 1, Issue 8

Residents Riled Up Over Illegal Conversions

    Southwest Brooklyn residents from Bath Beach to Sunset Park stormed a town hall meeting on Thursday, February 26 at their wits’ end over what Dyker Heights resident, parent and local arts teacher Jeanine Bardo referred to as “the new normal” – a lifestyle rife with illegal home conversions.
    While Department of Buildings rep Tim Hogan promised an increase in Brooklyn inspectors by July, panelists and residents agreed that city agencies have done little to nothing to address the ripple effect these home makeovers have had on a swath of Southwest Brooklyn.
     “[Our new normal consists of] house[s] being completely gutted without permits during off hours; all of the refuse being put into vans and illegally carted away in the middle of the night,” contended Bardo to a standing-room-only crowd in the basement of the Knights of Columbus at 13th Avenue and 86th Street, also spotlighting storefront sweatshops and homes-turned-businesses as “obvious” instances in which the laws on the books are being “flouted.” 
 “[These are] a symptom of the undercurrent of what is allowed to happen when illegal activity is ignored by the very institutions and laws that are supposed to protect its citizens,” said Bardo, asking the DOB to “simply do [its] job” and get to the bottom of an issue that has influenced at least five pieces of legislature in the last year alone. Borough President Eric Adams, said Andrew Gounardes, who serves as his counsel, has proposed the newest legislation – working with Councilmembers Vincent Gentile and Jumaane Williams – that would take away the financial benefit of creating an illegal conversion in the first place.      
     Gounardes said the bill would create a new category, 
“aggravated illegal conversion”, that would enable the city to sell liens against such properties to a third party, who would have an incentive to collect on the debt. Besides going after the developers, the bill would also strive to protect tenants by dedicating the money raised from the sale of the liens to helping relocate residents who have been displaced from homes inside buildings that have been illegally converted.  
“This is a very, very strong comprehensive approach to stop these conversions from happening in the first place,” Gounardes stressed.
 That is key, according to organizers. “If we do not stop the illegal conversions, we will become a community of one-room apartment dwellers,” said Bob Cassara, co-founder of the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance and co-sponsor of the town hall meeting alongside Dyker Heights Civic Association president and moderator Fran Vella-Marrone. “The problem is not a new one but rather one that has existed for over 30 years and this issue has not been effectively dealt with. It is now time for change.”

     That issue, everyone present contended, puts tenants, neighbors and first responders at risk. “The greatest frustration that I face each day handling complaints is the blatant disregard of the zoning resolution, the building code and the multiple dwelling law,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “These statutes are designed to protect the life and safety of residents, tenants and first responders. If the city of New York, the Buildings Department and other enforcement agencies do not have the enforcement tools and the ability to enforce the rule of the law, those protections are just not in place.” 
Panelists seized the opportunity to ask Hogan exactly what the DOB is doing to combat the issue, squaring in on everything from complaint response time (an average of 35 days for regular complaints and 22 days for prioritized complaints) to the agency’s track record of not being able to get into reported properties.    
      With repeat offenders catching on to what’s tipping outsiders off, Hogan said the agency has been participating in everything from undercover stings to targeted sweeps (some of which take as many as 6 to 8 weeks).
     “Everybody thinks that it’s very simple for us to get into some of these properties,” the rep said, emphasizing that – by law – an access warrant does not allow the DOB access to a property if the tenant refuses entry. “It gives us no right to break and enter into the premises.”
Still, with local schools like P.S. 176 (a District 20 school at 175 percent capacity) spilling over from overcrowding, Vella-Marrone said simply, more has to be done. “We have a list here of all the problem areas,” she said. “So, if you want to start some sweeps you can start with these.” Additionally, Vella-Marrone expressed frustration over an outstanding $640 million in uncollected fines, $100 million of which was simply written off by the city.
“What are we doing with that money?” she asked. “We could be using that money for enforcement.”
State Senator Marty Golden brought the meeting to a close expressing the need not just for a citywide task force but, in addition, a localized task force “with teeth."
“The only way the task force has teeth is with legislation,” Golden said, stressing that, once in place, the task force must then pinpoint a “trigger” – be it the electric company, cable companies or even the post office – that would help bring illegal multi-family dwellings existing in the shadows into the light, and bring the developers getting rich on them to justice.  (Source: Meaghan McGoldrick, HomeReporter.) To sign a petition or to get involved, contact the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance

How would you like to spend $2 Million?

Attend Participatory Budgeting’s Project Expos which will, in a science fair format, display and explain initiatives that will be voted on for funding. Sunset Park’s local expo will be held at Sunset Park High School, on April 12 at 2pm. Actual voting on the initiatives will take place from April 11th through April 19th. Voting sites, open Monday-Friday, 3pm to closing, include Council Member Menchaca’s office, 4417 4th Avenue and UPROSE, 166A 22nd Street.  Pop-up voting sites, taking place during early morning/rush hour/weekends, will set up at subway stations at 36th & 59th Streets and 8th Avenue, Sunset Park Public Library, Sunset Park Rec Center, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, and along 5th & 8th Avenues. To volunteer, contact Mili Bonilla at For more information, contact Council Member Menchaca’s office at: 718.439.9012.

Help PS 503’s Sunset Knights Compete at the Chess Nationals  

     The Sunset Knights are an award winning chess team from Sunset Park. In just a few years since starting, the team has won the 1st Place National Championship, the 1st Place NYC Mayor's Cup (Best in the City), and in 2015, 1st Place in the Greater New York Chess Championship. Each weekend the young Knights take the subway to compete in city-wide chess tournaments coming back with 1st Place team prizes, individual medals, and trophies.  The team has earned its place to compete against the best in the country at the USCF National Scholastic Chess Championship in Nashville, Tennessee, this May. But getting the Knights to Nashville won’t be easy. P.S. 503 is a Title 1 public school where 95% of students live at or below the poverty line. Bus, registration fees, hotel and food costs for this tournament are expensive. Parents and staff members at P.S. 503 work tirelessly to raise money through local school-based fundraisers throughout the year, but to make this trip possible they need your support.  Please help us get to Nationals by donating any amount, and/or by sharing this page with a friend The Sunset Knights thank you! The deadline is April 9th. Follow the team at

Save the Date
4/4 - Annual SPRiG Egg Hunt, 9-11am, at Sunset Park, meet near the flagpole.
4/9 - SPRiG Planning Meeting, 7:30-8:45pm. Sunset Park Recreation Center.
4/11 to 4/19 - Vote Week for Participatory Budgeting. Vote on the projects you want to see funded for District 38. Places to vote are outlined above.
4/12 - Project Expos for Participatory Budgeting, 2:00pm. Sunset Park High School, 153 35th St. View the projects for District 20 that will be voted on to receive $2M in capital spending. 
4/12 - The Bloody Mary Festival. Enjoy 3 hours of unlimited tastes of TWELVE of Brooklyn’s most creative and innovative Bloody Marys, created by the finest restaurants and bars in Brooklyn. Includes lunch, tastes of local artisanal food and drinks, live music, and more. Tickets: $50.
4/14 - 72nd Precinct Community Affairs Meeting, 7:30pm. Marien Center, 4520 4th Ave.

4/15 - Community Board Meeting, 6:30pm. 43rd & 4th, Entrance on 43rd St. 
4/18 - Industry City Open Studios: A Celebration of Artists, Makers & Manufacturers, 11-6pm. Enter at 274 36th Street.
4/19 - Concert Series with Kelly Howard & Keiko Asakawa-Golden, 3:00pm. Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 7420 4th Ave. $10 donation. For more info:
4/25 - Jazz Night, 7:30pm. Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 7420 4th Ave. $10 donation.
Kids Baseball & Softball Registration with OLA Sports. Games begin April 11th.  Register at
Sunset Park Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) - registration begins in early April. Get farm fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and more.  For more info:
Farmigo has come to Sunset Park - Farmigo is an online farmers market where you can purchase high quality produce, meat, dairy, baked goods and artisinal foods for lower prices. Get 40% off your first order with the promo code FARMIGO40. For more info: Pick up is on Monday's, 4-7pm, on 59th between 4th and 5th Avenue.  Contact: 
Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN), advocates for tenants, tenants rights, and affordable housing, accepts walk-in visits at their offices at 462 36th Street, 10am to 4pm. NHN can also help homeowners stay in their homes.
Green-Wood Cemetery’s Historic Trolley Tour - Wednesdays and 2nd & 4th Sunday from 1-3pm $15 for non-members, $10 for members.
Sundays - Traditional, popular & original live Irish music at the Irish Haven. 8-11pm. No cover.

My name is Rachel Carmean and I live with my family on 58th Street.  I am an active member of the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee and I am fully dedicated to the preservation of Sunset Park's historic architecture and neighborhood.  If you have any questions about your property, need recommendations for repairs or renovations, or would like to buy, rent or sell, locally or out-of-town, I will be happy to help. And of course, your recommendations are always appreciated.
Rachel Carmean
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
Brown Harris Stevens Brooklyn, LLC


Recent Neighborhood Sales*
720   54th St     2-Fam     $650k     3/3
871   53rd St     2-Fam     $1.78m   2/27
526   55th St     2-Fam     $1.23m   2/26
325   59th St     4-Fam     $975k     2/24
343   53rd St     2-Fam     $750k     2/18
759   50th St     2-Fam     $1.3m     2/13
561   62nd St    2-Fam     $1.09m   2/13

* Source: New York City Public Records
Copyright © 2015 Brown Harris Stevens Brooklyn, LLC, All rights reserved.