Illegal Loft Living

The funny thing about this New York Times story on a girlfriend sprucing up her boyfriend’s Red Hook pad is that, for all the effort they put into decorating it, the rental itself is illegal. Almost five years after first renovating the Monarch Luggage building, the developer, Eugene Mendelowitz, has still not received a certificate of occupancy. In fact, a violation from February 2001 is still active, according to the Department of Buildings website. Meanwhile, tenants are paying as much as $1,800 a month to live there.

The building is a sore spot for advocates for industry in the community who are worried that all the residential conversions in Red Hook are pushing away manufacturing businesses that need cheap space to operate. The Monarch Luggage building, at 14-30 Verona Street (also known as 5 Delavan Street), was originally in a manufacturing zone. In 2002—after the Buildings Department determined people were already living there–the City Planning Commission rezoned the site to residential, according to a spokeswoman for the commission, Rachaele Raynoff.

Since then, Mendelowitz has burned through a string of temporary certificates of occupancy, the last one expiring in May (PDF). Jennifer Givens, a Buildings Department spokeswoman, told The Real Estate that the city will not issue another temporary certificate because it is pushing the owner to clear up a few record-keeping details and receive a permanent certificate of occupancy. She said the outstanding items did not create a dangerous living situation and that there are no plans to evict the tenants.

Calls to Mendelowitz and his managing agent were not returned. Efforts to get in touch with David Scott, the tenant in the New York Times piece, were unsuccessful.

Matthew Schuerman

UPDATE: David Scott e-mailed to say that he isn’t concerned about the situation because there is a certificate of occupancy posted on the front door. It’s unclear whether that one is the temporary certificate that expired in May. He also notes that he is now married to the girlfriend who helped with the decorating, and that Mendelowitz paid his fine. True, but as the developer never obtained a permanent certificate of occupancy, the building is still noncompliant. The above post has been corrected to reflect that. (We originally said it was the fine that was outstanding.)