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Building, hope collapses on Clark St.

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Emergency demolition is underway at a landmarked Brooklyn Heights building after two partial building collapses rained bricks and mortar to Clark Street over Memorial Day weekend, leading some neighbors to suspect that the owners of the “For Sale” building let the building decay to force out their last few rent-stabilized tenants.

On May 24, the Department of Buildings received a 311 complaint that the exterior wall between the fifth floor and roof of the 16-unit brick building at 100 Clark St. was buckling. Emergency inspectors found the site so unsafe they immediately evacuated the building’s three occupied apartments, closed the surrounding streets, and called in a wrecking crew to demolish the building’s top two floors, according to a buildings department statement.

The city also hit the 19th-century building’s owners, the Penson Companies, with a violation for failure to maintain the structure.

But neighbors who have watched the building crumble piece by piece over the years are suspicious that the company has done worse than that.

“It’s been dilapidated for a while,” said Richard Lipkin, a 35-year neighbor of the Monroe Place building. “[The owners] were letting it go. You would walk by and see that it was precarious, looking neglected, and doleful.”

Penson Companies refused to comment on the situation. The building had been for sale, but its broker at Marcus and Millichap said the listing expired about a month ago and the two parties had not been in touch.

An empty building is easier to sell — fueling suspicion that the Penson Companies wanted to get its tenants out.

“A building that’s vacated is worth 30 to 40 percent more than one that isn’t,” a Prudential Douglas Elliman broker, Leonard Steinberg, recently told the New York Times.

Services to the remaining tenants have been spotty, city records show. This year alone, the three remaining tenants — all of whom are rent-stabilized, according to Brownstoner.com, a local Web site — have filed eight complaints of no heat or water with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development this year. In 2004, the Greek revivalist building almost collapsed and, afterward, many apartments were left vacant.

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Reader Feedback

Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
The building was built in 1852, making it more than 150 years old, not 100 years old. Originally a mansion, it was converted to an SRO with an estimated 19 rooms after the death of its original owner. An addition to the rear of the original building and adjacent to Clark Street was built in what had been the building's garden. The third floor wall on the Monroe Place side collapsed in 2004 and was subsequently rebuilt.
June 1, 2008, 2:32 am

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