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The vacant Ovington Avenue building that collapsed on itself early Monday injured no one, but unleashed a bitter backlash of outrage from neighbors who claim the property owner is purposely letting his various Bay Ridge holdings fall apart.
Residents between Fifth and Sixth avenues said the neglected, wood-framed building owned by Mousa Khalil caved in at about 3 am.
“I heard a crash, and it didn’t take me long to figure out what happened,” said Peter Pellicani, who was forced to leave his home next door.
Pellicani said the collapse was a disaster waiting to happen.
“I used to lie in bed and think about what I’d do if it fell down,” he said. “It was only a matter of time.”
Pellicani said his late father complained to Khalil about the decaying structure for nearly 10 years, but his grievances fell on deaf ears.
“The guy was civil to us, but he made no effort to fix anything,” he said.
The Fire Department confirmed there were no casualties, and said the building would be demolished by nightfall.
Khalil, who owns more than 20 other dilapidated buildings in Bay Ridge — seven of which were auctioned off in January after being foreclosed on — said the collapse was caused by a leak. He said he’d already phoned a demolition company, but didn’t have any plans for the property.
“It’s going to be a vacant lot,” he said.
Residents say Khalil’s neglected homes are destroying their property values and quality of life. One of them, a partially-renovated, three-story home at Shore Road and 72nd Street is crawling with squirrels and roaches, they claim.
“He came in here saying he was going to build this and build that,” said Edward O’Connell, who lives in the adjoining house.
O’Connell said Khalil did some work on the property during the housing boom, but then stopped abruptly.
“He put this ugliness up and never finished it, and we’ve had this infestation of squirrels, which are just rats with furry tails,” he said.
O’Connell said he complained to Khalil and area officials about how the icy gusts blowing through the building’s hollow shell were cracking his walls and freezing his pipes, but nothing has been done to rectify the situation.
Another resident on the block, who asked not to be named, said he’s seen more roaches in the area since construction stopped.
“It’s totally abandoned, and probably totally waterlogged, so of course it’s infested with insects,” he said.
The eyesores even detract visitors to the serene Narrows Botanical Gardens that sits below one of Khalil’s properties, landscaper Jimmy Johnson claimed.
“Down here we have this beautiful garden, then you look up and there’s an abandoned building,” said Johnson who helped to create the sanctuary.
Khalil said he felt his critics’s pain, but blamed the economy for his squalid, poorly-maintained properties.
“It’s a problem money-wise,” he said, adding that he hopes to sell the Shore Road house to someone who’ll finish the work on it.
Khalil has been on the city’s radar since 2006 when he was slapped with a $10,000 fine for failing to maintain the Shore Road structure — a fee he never paid. He’s also admitted to creating an illegal driveway on the 72nd Street side of the house and charging $250 to rent it out as a parking spot.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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