What to do about standing water on building across the street?
February 19, 2017 10:10 AM   Subscribe

There's a building near us in Brooklyn that a bunch of people were forcibly evicted from some months ago. As of today, the developers have no plans for it and it's deteriorating quickly. The roof houses a generator and a bunch of cellular / electronic equipment, all suspended just above a huge pool of standing water. We're worried about electrical fires and other problems, but contacting 311 and the company selling the building haven't helped. What should we do?

The building is in Bushwick. We're across the street and you can see the water + equipment from our roof. We've taken photos to document.

Interaction with 311: They mean well. We've submitted pictures, they've come out 3 times to try and do something. They haven't been able to get into the building and they always come unannounced when we're at work so they haven't been on our roof to see either.

Interaction with company selling the building: They're aware of the problem but don't care. When pressed they insist that they can't do anything, that it's up to the owners, but that they can't tell us who the owners are.

- Is there a way we can find the owners and somehow put pressure on them to do something?
- There's a chain on the building door. Would 311 people enter the building to document if that chain wasn't there?
- What should we do?
posted by argentum to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
You can potentially find ownership information through the property registry, ACRIS.

Start by searching based on the address of the building, in "Find Address and Parcels" since you almost certainly don't know the legal block number and lot number. Once you've found the block and lot number, there's a button that page to do a document search.

You're most likely looking for the document class deeds to determine ownership. It is theoretically possible you could get the bank that holds the mortgage interested in making sure their building doesn't burn down, as well, but that's likely to be a much tougher course of action.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:29 AM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could report it as a potential mosquito breeding site to 311, according to this document.

"What does the city do to control the mosquito population?

...Reduces mosquito breeding sites by removing standing water and applying larvicide to sites that cannot be emptied or drained.
... by investigating 311 standing water complaints.
posted by amtho at 10:36 AM on February 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Nthing having a meeting to provide your documentation to the bank holding the mortgage. Is the building in receivership? Check with the courts. If so a judge will be overseeing a court-appointed receiver and you can complain to the judge's office and the court appointed receiver, too.
posted by jbenben at 10:58 AM on February 19, 2017

Call your city councilperson. (Reynoso or Espinal, I think, not sure where you are.) They may not be able to do anything themselves but maybe they can point you to a different NYC government office that could help.
posted by miles per flower at 11:09 AM on February 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

I agree about contacting your council person. Perhaps your community board can help too. Here's a list of the Brooklyn ones. It looks like Bushwick is CB 4.
posted by zorseshoes at 11:27 AM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're concerned about the possibility of electrical fires, there is a specific fire hazard complaint form, which includes a contact number.
posted by furtive_jackanapes at 12:25 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Find out who owns the cell equipment, tell 'em it's gonna fall through the roof. Standing water on flat roof could be something pretty simple like a blocked scupper, they have access or an easement, maybe they'll send someone.
posted by fixedgear at 12:46 PM on February 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

In my experience the only department that would really show up and do stuff about building-related issues was the fire department.

So if you want to choose something that is more likely to result in action, I'd go with the above suggestion about fire hazards.

(my experience was dealing with a slumlord in the Bronx - HPD was toothless but our local fire people would show up promptly and fine the ever-lovin'-crap out of him; they were nice guys but they took their job seriously)
posted by sciencegeek at 2:07 PM on February 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Just adding another recommendation for city council members office, community board and or fire dept (maybe visit your local house - definitely use the non emergency number of you get in touch by phone).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:18 PM on February 19, 2017

Nthing contact the fire department. It sounds like there are code issues, which they can definitely get into and start requiring action / threatening fines.
posted by vignettist at 11:55 PM on February 19, 2017

Just in case you think the mosquito angle is unimportant: it's not. NYC's efforts are related to Zika transmission, and there are other reasons that mosquitoes are not welcome. Mosquito breeding sites are serious business.
posted by amtho at 7:39 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

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