NEWKIRK PLAZA – A stone’s throw away from the vacant corner lot on Newkirk Avenue and Marlborough Road, Brooklyn bartender Sally Li looks out of the window of her bar at the 14-foot-tall, corrugated metal fence that surrounds the area.
“We want the wall down,” she said.
Li, along with her fellow merchants and residents, is confused about what exactly lies behind the enclosed wall, which stretches around the entire corner, with over 100 feet of fencing total. Her confusion is warranted, as the land has had a tumultuous past, including nearly $100,000 in fines and a persistent rat situation, according to The Department of Buildings and The Department of Health.
The location – 1500 Newkirk Ave., 1502 Newkirk Ave., or 601 Marlborough Rd., depending on the document – used to be a gas station until a company, 601 Marlborough, LLC., purchased the land in 2008. Since then, no new establishments have been built on the property.
The only addition, erected in 2018, is the massive metal feature. Built without a proper permit and in violation of construction codes, the construction of the wall and other work on the property prompted the city’s Department of Buildings to issue a full stop-work order.
Since this injunction, entered on June 30, 2018, 601 Marlborough, LLC. has received eight violations from The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings/Environmental Control Board – the sections in charge of regulating this type of property. All of these finable offenses are due to a violation of the stop-work order, with most relating to complaints that people were working regardless of the city’s demands.
Out of the seven with actionable monetary penalties, none have been paid – totaling $96,660 in fines.
Out of the seven with actionable monetary penalties, none have been paid – totaling $96,660 in fines. Efforts to reach a spokesperson from the LLC with knowledge on the fines and inspections were not successful.
The metal wall is not only an inconvenience and a money pit, but is contributing to the ongoing infestation of rats in the area, residents and merchants say.
At Liberty Chemists across the street, manager Steve Zafarani sees the vermin problem first-hand. No stranger to cleaning up dead critters outside of the pharmacy, he often sees people throwing bread and other food around the wall. Towards the edge of the walls, there are spots where vermin could come in and out of the lot. “A lot of people come by and say ‘if you see people throwing bread, tell them to stop because it’s bringing mice,” he said.
Complaints about rats have been made to the Department of Health’s 311 line. In the past few months, it has sent two inspectors to the location to check for rats. The first time, on August 10, the property passed inspection, meaning there were no signs of rat activity observed.
However, the DOH explained in an email that it visited the property on November 18, and that the inspector “failed it for signs of rats.” A Commissioner’s Order to Abate, or COTA, the condition was mailed to the property owner on the 26th. The department said they will be performing a compliance inspection next week.
Across the street and catty-corner from Liberty Chemists, US Bangla Grocery has been there long before the wall. The owner, Zulshad Ahmed, is tired of all his customers asking what is going on with the feature outside his window. “What I heard is that they have a lot of rats in there,” he said. In his 12 years at the helm, Ahmed has closely watched what goes on at the corner. Last year, he said, people came by with some papers and “then everyone [was] gone.”
This location is just one of 18 active LLCs registered under the same P.O. Box connected to 601 Marlborough, LLC., according to state records.
To rectify this situation, as explained by the DOB, 601 Marlborough, LLC. would need to comply with a very specific process.
- Step 1 – 601 Marlborough, LLC.: Pay all fines for OATH/ECB Violations
- Step 2 – 601 Marlborough, LLC.: Submit an application to shore, or make the area code compliant, to the DOB
- Step 3 – DOB: Application approval
- Step 4 – DOB: Partially lift the stop-work order solely to address the violations
- Step 5 – 601 Marlborough, LLC.: Make all aspects of the location code compliant
- Step 6 – 601 Marlborough, LLC.: Submit a certificate of corrections
- Step 7 – DOB: After receiving step number 6, likely life the stop-work order
- Step 8 – 601 Marlborough, LLC.: Submit an entirely new permit application for any future work on the property
If the LLC does not follow this process to a tee, The Department of Buildings can continue to fine them for any violations of the current stop-work order. Even more, if anyone does any work in the area to enact such a violation, at the rate the fines went this past year, 601 Marlborough, LLC. could be facing monetary repercussions to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars — not to mention the monthly property fees the company continues to pay.
Yet, because the plot is private, it cannot require that something is developed on that land within any given time. And, in turn, it cannot control any increase in vermin in the area.
The accountability would then fall on the health department to take action following its upcoming compliance inspection. It is unclear, however, whether its actions could expedite any potential building projects on the land, especially considering the arduous process 601 Marlborough, LLC would need to go through to eliminate the stop-work order and submit another permit.
Residents and merchants in the area want something to happen on the corner, regardless of what those details may be. Looking through his Christmas light lined window, Liberty Chemist’s Zafarani sighed, “It’s only gonna get worse.”