Local Leaders Call Out Derelict Property Owner

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Community upset over two Upper West Side landmarked buildings allowed to decay

On Sunday, June 9, community leaders and residents spoke out about their anger over the physical neglect of two dilapidated properties at 118 West 76th St. and 44 West 73rd St. They say landmarked buildings are crumbling, have been issued violations by city agencies for rats and garbage, and present a health hazard for the whole neighborhood.

The owner of the two buildings, Diane Haslett-Rudiano, Chief Clerk of the Brooklyn Borough Office of Elections, has not responded to complaints and formal requests by both Council Member Gale Brewer and local block association presidents. The two buildings were acquired in the mid 1970's by Ms. Haslett-Rudiano's late husband, Jean Rudiano. Since then, the properties have been virtually abandoned. Locals say that not only are they in an unsightly state, but the failure to maintain the exterior building walls is dangerous for neighbors and pedestrians. The buildings have received violations from the New York City Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In addition, the garbage buildup in front of the buildings has created a health hazard. Haslett-Rudiano has been urged to take responsibility, and been notified that rats were spreading from her buildings into the surrounding blocks. "Over the past 12 years I have sent many letters to the owner, sharing the concerns of my constituents," said Brewer. "My office has reached out offering to assist in mending the situation in any way possible, at first to try to improve the situation together and get her to do something about the rat infestation and garbage. When it became clear that she had no intention to make any improvements and maintain these buildings, I tried putting her in touch with a broker recommended by the block association. She never followed up on any of these things, and I found her lack of concern and refusal to be reasoned with deeply disturbing. Things can't continue this way, the Upper West Side community has had enough of being ignored and we want a new person to take possession since it is clear that the current owner is not a responsible property owner."

Judith Bronfman, president of the West 76th Street Block Association, Inc. summarized their attempts to repair 118 West 76 Street. "Over these years, the building has grown more derelict, more of an eyesore, a greater haven for rats."

"We tried to get something done about this building," said Bronfman. "We've gotten inspections by the Fire Department, the Department of Buildings, the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, but the garbage then gets cleaned up, sort of; the minimal fines get paid, and then all that busy ineffectual activity joins the news stories in the archives."

Residents of West 73rd Street are facing similar issues. "Our West 73rd Street Block Association and its members and residents on this block have been under duress by the great amount of rats running around the sidewalk and the street every evening. Needless to say, it has eroded the quality of life and real estate values on this block where many are owners of their building and/or their apartments," said Frances Apgar, president of the association. Mark Diller, chair of Manhattan Community Board 7, also commented on the situation. "The owner's refusal to properly maintain these houses contradicts CB7's Core Principles, which recognize that we are all interdependent, and that enhancing quality of life is everyone's shared responsibility. Neglect is contagious, and breeds like the rats in these abandoned sites."

Calls to Haslett-Rudiano at her office went unanswered.

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