Bayside residents claim longtime squatters are responsible for recent shooting

Police respond to the scene in Bayside where gunshots were allegedly fired from a house that neighbors say is occupied by squatters. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Murkowski)

Members of the Bayside community claim that squatters at a residence on 38th Avenue are to blame for at least 19 gunshots fired throughout the neighborhood around 3 a.m. on March 19 that left one person injured.

According to Captain John Portalatin of the 111th Precinct, the shots were targeted at a group of teens looking for a spot to park their car near on their way to a party at the house. Police said one passenger was hit once in the torso and hospitalized. Additionally, one bullet went straight through a child’s car seat in a nearby vehicle, and additional shots struck nearby vehicles, local residents said.

The shots were fired by between four and six individuals who were attending the party, though police said their motive is currently unknown. No arrests have been made yet. There are currently increased patrols in the vicinity.

The squatters living at the house located at 208-16 38th Ave. have been wreaking havoc in the neighborhood since they broke into the residence two years ago, according to neighbors who live nearby. One neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that authorities have done nothing to kick them out despite several complaints from local residents.

In addition to staying at the house illegally, the squatters have been renting out the place on Airbnb, the neighbor told QNS. Every time Airbnb has taken down the posting, the squatters have just posted it on the site again. Many of the tenants have allegedly caused trouble around the neighborhood, including harassing female residents and holding parties late into the night. It was during one of these parties that the gunshots were fired, the neighbor said.

squatters Airbnb
The squatters managed to set up an Airbnb for the home they were illegally occupying, allowing them to rake in money.

Neighbors told QNS that the New York City Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) looked into the matter two weeks ago, but nothing has changed. When they reached out to OSE, the neighbors’ complaints included “illegal squatters taking over the house and renting out apartments within the house to transient short term renters, fire, life and safety violations due to numerous renters in the house without a fire sprinkler system, squatters switching license plates on their vehicles and leaving a lot of their trash outside, like empty beer cans.”

QNS reached out to OSE and is waiting for a response.

Bayside squatters advertising renting rooms at the house
In addition to advertising on Airbnb, the squatters put up a sign in one of their vehicles saying the Bayside house was for rent. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Murkowski)

Many in the neighborhood have become less trustworthy of the city’s leadership and authorities since these squatters have been able to get away with staying at the building while also renting it out for two years.

“Other than [District 26 Assemblyman] Edward Braunstein, the other civic servants are useless,” one resident said.

Braunstein’s office has been in constant contact with the residents. QNS reached out to his office for comment and is waiting for a response.

Senator John Liu has issued a statement calling on the Department of Buildings to kick out the squatters.

“This location has been the source of much concern in our community, and with this shooting incident, we are calling on the Department of Buildings to immediately issue a vacate order to ensure no more lives are jeopardized due to inaction,” Liu said. “We’ve spoken to neighbors as well as the Department of Buildings, Community Board 11, and the 111th Precinct. about the shooting as well as the history of squatters and illegal Airbnb rentals at this location and our community is taking this situation very seriously. As the investigation continues, we encourage anyone with information to contact authorities.”

Neighbors say they are running out of patience as they wait for the proper authorities to do something about the squatters. Now that some of the people staying there have allegedly committed acts of violence, there is a greater sense of urgency among the community to get them out of there before any more damage can be done. While an exact date has yet to be decided upon, the neighborhood is planning to organize a protest outside the home.

According to the OSE, these squatters were previously removed from another location in the city prior to breaking into the house in Bayside. The exact amount of people staying at the house fluctuates but according to residents in the neighborhood, the main squatters consist of a man and his two sons, a woman and her baby and at least one other man and woman.

The house’s previous resident vacated the property after Bank of America foreclosed on it. The home has yet to be secured so it can go up for auction.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. on March 23.

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