The Real Deal New York

Illegal Greenpoint loft angers neighbors, but tenants stay put for years

December 04, 2012 10:30AM

Stop work orders, thousands of dollars in fines and numerous safety violations haven’t been able to stop an apparently prime loft apartment building on Banker Street and Meserole Avenue in Greenpoint from operating illegally, the New York Times reported.

The former factory turned loft rental building, at 239 Banker Street, is just a skip away from Bedford Avenue, McCarren Park and the East River, boasting exposed brick and Manhattan skyline views. But a lack of heating, faulty wiring and numerous other problems plague the illegal residency, angering and bewildering local residents. “Why is it that someone can so egregiously and recklessly ignore the law and not be penalized appropriately?” Heather Roslund, the chairwoman of Community Board 1’s land use committee, asked.

The building, which is sometimes known as the “Sweater Factory Lofts” or the “Rustic House,” and where apartments rent for $2,800 to $3,800 a month, is located in the  Greenpoint-Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone. The commercial zone was created by Mayor Bloomberg in 2005 to help preserve manufacturing jobs in the rapidly gentrifying area.

The 239 Banker Street building was converted by its previous owner using a hotel loophole in the zoning law, but the city never gave final approval for construction, and in 2009, the building’s owner boldly ignored a stop work order, leaving many baffled.

The building is currently owned by an entity called North Side Lofts, which claims that the building is “100 percent up to code” despite more than a dozen open violations listed on the Buildings Department’s website.

Ironically, it is the tenants who seem to have stopped the city from pursuing legal action. Multiple tenants of the building are using the Loft Law — offering legal residence to tenants of commercial lofts that were occupied continuously for 12 months from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2009 — to stay put. [NYT]Christopher Cameron