As published in the Queens Courier, October 4, 2012:
Squatters, teen vandals trespassing in Queens development
By Melissa Chan
A quiet Bayside development has become the target of illegal trespassing after building management refused to put locks on basement doors that welcome homeless squatters and a band of teenage vandals, residents say.
“It’s the craziest thing. I’ve been in this community for 53 years. I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with something like this,” said Bayside Manors resident Jack Oshier, 67. “We don’t have problems like this in Bayside.”
According to Oshier, two basements in the apartment complex — located at 42-10 212th Street and 42-40 212th Street — have been facing major security issues since February, when residents learned their lower level laundry rooms had become guest houses for sleeping homeless people and a recurring group of at least 10 teenagers looking for a place to hang out and drink.
The nightly visitors, Oshier said, do not even have to break in, since they freely enter and exit through the unlocked basement doors left ajar every hour of the day.
The basements are not connected to the residential sections of the building, but residents say they are still scared to venture down at night in fear of running into an intruder.
“I don’t go at night once it gets dark, and I do all my laundry early in the morning,” said resident Debbie Sindicic. “But that’s when I find all the remnants of the night before.”
Sindicic, who has found small, empty plastic baggies lying around the basement floors, said she suspects the crashers are smoking marijuana.
Oshier said he sees the same homeless man leaving the 42-40 212th Street basement every morning and has picked up empty beer cans strewn around the basement rooms in the other building. Residents have also allegedly spotted the teens engaging in sexual activity at times, he said.
Still, officials at WPH Apartments Inc., which manages the buildings, have not lifted a finger to fix the problem, Oshier said.
“This situation has turned almost criminal,” he said. “Suppose someone gets hurt? What if someone follows a tenant into the laundry room? The majority of residents here have an animosity toward the situation because management here has a very casual attitude about what is happening.”
Management did not return calls for comment, but in a February 24 letter sent to Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, managing agent Ohad Badani promised to lock basement doors each night at 8 p.m. and to instruct staff members to inspect the laundry rooms for loiterers periodically throughout the day.
“Furthermore, in the coming months, we intend to install new building entrance doors. Once the installation of the entrance doors is completed, we will look into installing the same locks on the laundry room doors,” Badani wrote.
But more than half a year later, residents and Braunstein’s office say none of those changes have been implemented.
“It creates a dangerous element around the building,” said David Fischer, Braunstein’s chief of staff. “This is a situation where the building doesn’t seem to care about the safety of its residents.”
The 111th Precinct is “currently attempting to work with property managers to enforce trespass laws,” according to Community Affairs Officer Bill Conway. But unless building administration signs off on a trespass affidavit, police cannot make arrests, he said.
“We want it fixed,” Oshier said. “It just doesn’t make sense. What is the big deal about putting the proper security lock on a door?”