Woodside homeowner arrested for trying to bribe city into ignoring illegal conversions

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A Woodside property owner whose two-story building was deemed too hazardous for living was arrested this week for trying to bribe the city into overlooking the vacate order.

Susana Escobar-Cardena, 65, was charged on Dec. 12 and charged with third-degree bribery and second-degree reckless endangerment. Escobar-Cardena, the owner of a two-family home at 62-17 39th Ave., had illegal single room occupancies in the cellar and first and second floors of the building.

In March of this year, according to prosecutors, the Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a vacate order on the property and told the owner that no one was allowed to re-rent or live there. On Dec. 10 an investigator re-inspected the property and found two rooms on the second floor with no emergency exits and one room in the cellar with no emergency exit.

Escobar-Cardena told the investigator that she had nowhere else to go and was told that the American Red Cross could help her find a new home. She proceeded to place $200 in cash into the investigators hand. The investigator told her it was not appropriate and told his colleague who was outside, according to the criminal complaint.

The investigator and his colleague went back into the building to record the conversation with Escobar-Cardena who again tried giving the DOB employees $200.

On Dec. 12, the American Red Cross helped to relocate five residents living in the building. Investigators also found that since 2010, the building has three dozen City Environmental Control Board violations that are either pending or in default. The violations range from illegal conversions to illegal construction.

“This arrest exemplifies how bribery and corruption gravely undercut New Yorkers’ safety; in this case, creating seriously dangerous conditions, according to the complaint,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters. “Working with the City Department of Buildings, we successfully stopped the illegal conduct that could have had perilous results.”

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