By REUVEN FENTON
Publication: The New York Post
Date: Monday, August 2 2010
Residents of a Brooklyn community have been living in fear since a dozen-plus neighborhood properties were converted into illegal boardinghouses crammed with the homeless, psych patients and ex-cons — including pedophiles and junkies.
“They’ve brought the neighborhood down so badly, it’s unbelievable!” said Priscella Miller, 60, of the deluge of unsavory characters who have moved into the converted houses along a 15-block stretch in East New York in the last two years.
“We’re surrounded. We feel like we’re being bombarded with them,” she said of the area that stretches from Pitkin to Dumont avenues between Pennsylvania and Schenck avenues.
Neighbors said they’d noticed a decline in the community when burglaries and muggings shot up recently but didn’t know why.
“[Boarders] were being snuck in at night, and we didn’t know what was going on until the situation got really bad,” said Oscar Heath, 47, who lives down the block from one such dwelling at Van Siclen and Belmont avenues.
On the outside, nothing distinguishes the houses from others on the block. But, inside, they are often dangerously overcrowded with as many as 60 people, all crammed into rooms lined with bunk beds.
The illegally converted, single- and two-family boardinghouses have provided beds to psychiatric patients, paroled ex-cons and the homeless, some of whom were referred there by the city.
In April, the Bloomberg administration finally instated a rule that would stop placement of at least the homeless at such facilities in the future, a city spokeswoman said.
Still, private companies continue to herd other undesirables into the unregulated houses in exchange for fees from landlords.
A manager with one company told The Post that placing people in the boardinghouses is a steppingstone to their recovery — and that she has no plans to stop referring them.
“[The neighborhood] can fight me until they’re blue in the face; I’m not going anywhere,” the manager said.
“Every person in this community knows someone who’s a crackhead or was incarcerated,” she added. “Sooner or later, the same people who are complaining are going to require my services.”
Neighbors frequently complain to 311 about the situation, but Buildings Department inspectors are often turned away at the doors, said City Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, whose district includes East New York.
“It’s a big problem,” Dilan said.