When my friend Jake Post got the call at work from his roommate telling him city officials were inside their apartment building and forcing everyone out,he rushed back to Brooklyn—239 Banker Street—the home he’s been safely residing in since June. The Department of Buildings deemed all 239 Banker Street apartments illegal after FDNY officials found over 30 tenants living inside the former sweater factory, non c-of-o, stop ordered industrial warehouse loft space better known as “Studio B,”and “The Sweater Factory Lofts.”
When “DOB officials told us we had an hour to grab our shit before they padlocked the place, I had no idea why.” The displaced tenants stood outside the building and waited for The Red Cross to arrive. The DOB ordered the Red Cross to come in and help tenants remain calm and find temporary housing for those who needed it.
The owner of the building, Max Starck, had been using the 239 Banker Street sweater factory as a residential space since May. He was not on site to comment. When the DOB first started issuing construction related complaints in June, Starck failed to awknowledge them and pay the fines. After the building was issued its second “stop order,” to end construction work, Starck changed the construction hours to take place after 5 pm, after the DOB closed their offices and officials had gone home.
“The only other time I remember seeing a stop work complaint was in August,” said Jake, “because the next day I saw the same guys out there working again and I couldn’t believe it. They had power tools in hand, like they didn’t get the memo.”On the DOB website, a list of 50 complaints and 49 violations are linked to 239 Banker Street. To Erik Brandt, an artist who lives and works just a few blocks away, the sudden eviction came as no surprise. “Everyone around here knows Max Starck,” he said, “he owns The Greenpoint Hotel, the most illegal spot in town.”
Starck purchased the hotel back in 2003 from Praxis Housing Initiatives, a provider of housing and services for people with H.I.V. and AIDS. The majority of guests living inside the single-room-occupancy establishment were drug addicts at the time of Starck purchasing. Since then, not much has changed. 20 deaths have occurred inside the hotel since 1998. Not one of the Banker Street tenants knew that Starck owned the hotel until three weeks ago, when they found out he sold it for 3.5 million dollars.
It wasn’t until September 18th when two FDNY officers found tenants drinking on the roof of 239 Banker Street and made a complaint about illegal conversion throughout the building, that the DOB began taking serious measures to find Starck, vacate the building, and shut it down. Starck however, was no where to be found. On September 22, when a DOB complaint declared that 239 Banker Street had been illegally converted, Stark wasn’t on site either. Two days later, the DOB showed up and forced eviction without warning.The vacate order shown to tenants on September 24 simply stated that 239 Banker Street “occupancy is perilous to life.”