A state judge has ordered the city to re-examine the flawed process that allowed a developer to build an allegedly illegal — and notorious — building in Homecrest.
Judge Yvonne Lewis sided with neighbors who have argued for seven years that building owner Joseph Druzieh and his architect lied to the city when they said his 53-foot house — built over an existing bungalow — was merely an “alteration” rather than a new structure.
The Department of Buildings and the Board of Standards and Appeals had rubberstamped the permits for 1882 E. 12th St. because the architect, Shlomo Wygoda, had “self-certification” rights — a professional courtesy given to, and sometimes abused by, prolific builders.
Lewis did not have the power to order Druzieh to tear down his unfinished tower at 1882 E. 12th St., but she told him to prepare to do so, according to a lawyer who was there when the ruling was handed down.
The neighbors leading the suit hailed the decision.
“It is pure arrogance that someone could build something that so overwhelms its neighbors without any consideration of their lives,” said Bella Center, whose parents have owned the house next door for 30 years and led the suit with neighbor Betty Travitsky. “It’s a blight on my parent’s legacy. They worked so hard to buy our house and put such pride in it. Now, much of the light is gone.”
Center’s lawyer Stuart Klein said the permit should never have been allowed as an alteration, given that the addition is far larger than the existing house.
“This entire case comes down to the one question I keep on asking,” said Klein, a former general counsel and inspector general for the building department. “If the plans had been properly reviewed by the Department of Buildings, would they have been approved? The answer is a resounding no.”
Bryan Pace/for New York Daily News
Betty Travitsky is one of two neighbors who sued.
Architect Wygoda has since lost the ability to certify his own designs.
“The Board of Standards and Appeals traditionally does not overrule the Department of Buildings,” said Klein, a zoning specialist. “What the state judge said is that that the BSA did not properly conduct its responsibility as an overseeing body and determine the DOBs rubberstamp as invalid.”
Travitsky has lived on the quiet Homecrest street with her husband Abraham for over 40 years. Her one-family home now stands in the shadows of the taller structure that Community Board 15 and other neighbors believe is meant for a multi-family dwelling, not a single-family home.
“The site is in an appalling state,” said Travitsky. “There has been no upkeep. To live next to this is horrible. People walk by and laugh.”
The BSA could decide in favor of either party.
“The agency is reviewing and a decision is due July 23,” said a spokesman for the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Architect Walter Maffei, who was as a consultant by the neighbors, said there’s only one way the BSA can rule if it is to have any integrity at all.
“Common sense says anyone in their right mind would rule to tear this aberration down because it is not and never was an alteration,” said Maffei. “But it’s lack of common sense and respect that got us to this point.”
Neither Druzieh nor his architect could be reached for comment.