Collateral damage

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Dinner is curbed.

Corner-cutting contractors forced an innocent Bay Ridge restaurant to close when a house they were working on next door threatened to fall on the eatery on July 9.

Builders renovating a two-family home on 76th Street removed the residence’s second-story facade but left a free-standing exterior wall with no supports. Contractors also failed to erect a “sidewalk shed” — the structure that prevents falling material from landing on passers-by.

After complaints about the precarious wall, the Department of Buildings interceded on Thursday, forcing contractors to fix the dangerous condition and build a protective sidewalk shed. So far no one has reported an injury, but there was collateral damage — the department forced next-door restaurant Tanoreen to close in case the neighbor’s wall came crashing down.

Despite doing nothing wrong, the famed neighborhood eatery took a major hit when it had to lock up at 4 pm — just before the dinner rush, the owner’s husband said.

“We were victimized by these people who did this work without concern for others,” said Wafa Bishara, husband of chef and owner Rawia Bishara. “The food was cooked — ready to be served — and we had 200 reservations. Everyone had to be called personally.”

Of course, the situation could have been worse, according to Tanoreen’s own contractor, who has been keeping an eye on the site to make sure the nogoodnick neighbors don’t further compromise his client’s business.

“You had this free-standing wall — 15 feet by 15 feet, probably weighing two tons — and nothing protecting people on the sidewalk,” said Steve Zafiropoulos, Tanoreen’s air-conditioning and refrigeration contractor.

Contractors planned to convert the first floor of the two-family residence into a retail space and subdivide the second floor into a two separate apartments, permit applications show. The Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order on the site on July 6 because of unsafe conditions, structural work contrary to plans, and un-permitted electrical work, records show.

The story is a prime example of how so-called “illegal home conversions” — dicing up homes into smaller apartments contrary to building code — negatively impact residents’ quality of life and destroy the neighborhood’s housing stock, according to an area preservationist.

“These contractors just do as they please with little regard for safety or regulations, not to mention aesthetics,” said Bob Cassara, who heads the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance. “This is a beautiful row house being destroyed.”

After months of pressure from preservationists and local politicians, the Department of Buildings has been cracking down on the practice in southwest Brooklyn, Cassara and others have said.

Neighbors also complained that the demolition at the 76th Street residence was done without a permit, 311 records show. But a contractor for the offending project countered that claim — but admitted that his people did a poor job.

“The permit was issued, but the work was done incorrectly,” said a man who identified himself as the building’s contractor but would not give his name.

The building is owned by Alice Ng, city records show. A man who answered the phone number for Ng listed on construction permit applications said he didn’t know her and just got the phone number.

“I don’t know what is going on, but you’re not the first person looking for her,” he said, hanging up abruptly on two occasions when this paper asked for his name.

Tanoreen got the all-clear to reopen around 5 pm Friday.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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