Categorized | Housing

422 East 178th St

By Fred Dreier

The facade of the four-story apartment building at 422 East 178th St. in the East Tremont neighborhood of the Bronx showcases recently painted brick and robust-looking windows that appear to be straight out of the box. The aesthetic improvements, however, hide a structure that racked up nearly 100 building code violations when a representative from the Housing Preservation and Development Commission (HPD) visited the site on September 28, 2009.

HPD’s September list of violations included peeling lead paint, non-flushing toilets, an infestation of cockroaches and mice, and a wide variety of plumbing issues.

That’s no surprise to the tenants of the eight occupied apartments in the half-vacant building.

“In the summer my kids get bit by the bugs,” said Justina Turull, who has lived on the fourth floor for eight years. “It looked like we were in the jungle.”

According to the New York City Department of Finance, eight separate firms have owned the building since 1981. Most of the owners held onto the apartment for three or four years before selling. The longest ownership was with the Queens-based Loran Realty Corporation, which held the building from 1999 until 2007.

On June 18, 2007, Loran sold the building to OCG VI, a subsidiary of Ocelot, for $1,295,500. The finance department does not list any of the building’s previous selling prices.

Turull said the building went downhill during Ocelot’s reign, and HPD records support her statement. The building racked up huge code violations in mid-2008, and its tenants went without heat or hot water during the winter of 2008-09. HPD records show that the building’s front door did not lock, and tenants reported holes in the floor and serious problems with plumbing and electricity.

After Ocelot went bankrupt in the spring of 2009, the building changed hands again, this time passing to the Brooklyn-based Five Star Realty, which purchased the building for $1,315,000 on Aug. 26.

Steve Porter, a manager with Five Star Realty, described the building’s condition as “poor” when his company took ownership.

“The roof was really bad,” Porter said. “The bathrooms and plumbing needed to go.”

Porter said Five Star has begun renovations on the building, and that he hopes the construction will last only two months. In September the company renovated the roof, and contractors painted the building’s face and installed new windows. Currently, workers are remodeling on the vacant apartments, tearing out walls, electrical cords and floorboards. According to Porter, Five Star’s plan is to move the current tenants into the renovated apartments once the construction is complete.

Turull said she’s not waiting around to see if the new owners live up to their word. The building’s front looks better than ever, but her apartment, she said, is still a haven for insects and rats. After eight years, she’s moving out.

“I heard Five Star paid over a million dollars for this building,” Turull said. “There’s no way they’re going to make any of that back on this apartment.”

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