Thursday, June 21, 2012

Slumlord Congressman?

Engel Owns Building with Illegal Apt., Mice 

By Michael Horowitz
BRONX, NEW YORK, June 21- Harry Bajraktari, a prominent Albanian-American who loaned Rep. Eliot Engel between $100,000 and $250,000 for the purchase of a two-bedroom cooperative apartment in Riverdale, owns a building with the Congressman at 1142 Metcalf Ave.
In the Bronx building, in which Engel has a 24-percent stake, a family had lived in an illegal basement apartment for seven years until building inspectors for the city's Department of Housing, Preservation Development (HPD) started citing the building for the illegal apartment and the matter came under scrutiny in the Daily News, City News, and the Bronx News.
Bajraktari and Engel, through the E&J Realty company that Engel's business partner set up, purchased the three-story apartment at 1142 Metcalf Ave. for $430,000 in 2008. Engel's investment of $30,000 reportedly bought him a 24-percent stake in the building.
HPD inspectors started citing the building for its illegal basement apartment in February 2009. As of last summer, the violation for the illegal apartment remained in effect. 
Over the last three elections, Bajraktari, his partners, and his family have contributed $72,000 to the Congressman's campaigns.
A City News probe of the illegal basement apartment showed a family of eight living there in substandard conditions. The apartment was clearly a firetrap because it didn't have the egresses that are required under city law.
The family, whose identity City News shielded, had complained about mice, worms, rats, roaches, mold and protruding pipes, as we as wall and ceiling cracks.
Ironically, the family's complaints about their apartment led to a Housing Court decision that required them to move out by Aug. 1 of last year.
City News, in its inspection of the apartment last summer, showed that the apartment, which had three tiny bedrooms, had windows that could not be opened in the event of a fire or another emergency. The lack of easy egress reportedly made the apartment an illegal firetrap.
The husband in the apartment at the time, who paid $900 per month for it, charged that the apartment was kept up better before Bajraktari and Engel bought it.
The husband, who acted as an agent for the landlord before Bajraktari and Engel bought it, said that he acted in the role of superintendent when the previous landlord owned it.
“Things went downhill after Harry (Bajraktari) bought the building,” the husband said. “He tried to get us to pay more rent, but we refused, given the fact that we were living in an illegal apartment that wasn't being properly maintained.”

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