New Yorkers Thrown Out of Home

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Tenants in a luxury building were evicted after inspectors found it was an illegal convert. Dozens of New Yorkers had to leave their homes Monday evening after city inspectors discovered that the building they lived in fails to meet with basic fire safety rules.

"They called it a fire trap," said Siobhan Burn, a resident of the building, at 1182 Broadway, who was walking down he street earlier this week.

The 16-story landmark doorman building, close to Manhattan's Garment District, was illegally converted more than a decade ago from offices into 60 apartments. But it seems the landlord, Mocal Enterprises, failed to make the change official with the city. Though the building has been inspected once a year by the Fire Department, it clearly doesn't meet the city's standards for a residential building. For starters, it only has one stairwell and no sprinkler system.

Apartments in this firetrap rented for as much as $3,700 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, according to listings, although the New York Post pegs the rents as high as $5,000.
Manhattan used to be full of unofficial apartments like these, particularly in industrial neighborhoods where hundreds of empty commercials buildings were converted to lofts in recent decades, often without official approval. But illegal buildings are relatively rare in Manhattan these days -- the action in illegal conversions is now in places like Queens, where single-family homes are often sliced up into small, illegal apartment buildings, and the new, improvised loft neighborhoods on the fringes of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Once city inspectors arrived at the 1182 Broadway on Monday, residents had just a few hours to vacate the premises - but Burns has no hard feelings for New York officials.

"People aren't upset with the city," she said. "There was a cop who was very informative and sympathetic ," says Burns, who moved into the building a little over a month ago, on February 1st. Since being kicked out, she's been staying with friends nearby. The building management company paid to put residents up for two nights at the Ace Hotel two blocks away. But after that, residents are on their own.

"Obviously, people are not going to find an apartment in Manhattan in two nights," said Burns.

A representative from the Red Cross has also visited the building to make sure all of the residents have places to stay. And enterprising real estate brokers have been seen hanging out in front of the building, offering their services to residents looking for new apartments.

A notice on the front door instructs residents to phone the management company to gain access to their apartments, and a steady stream of residents entered and left the building lobby throughout the day Thursday to pick up their mail.
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