Several Bayside residents joined former Queens politican Tony Avella gathered together on Sunday, Aug. 7, to discuss how to get rid of the squatters that have been occupying a home on 38th Avenue.
Ever since an incident last March in which gunshots were fired off in the neighborhood by individuals renting the house at 208-16 38th Ave. from squatters through Airbnb, several residents in the area have been in contact with local leaders, including Senator John Liu, Congresswoman Grace Meng and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, trying to get the squatters evicted.
While they are still working to achieve this goal, some progress has been made. Con Edison cut off electric and gas service from the home and Braunstein is now looking to get the same done with water service there.
“Although progress has been made by having Con Ed disconnect the electrical and gas service, the job needs to be completed,” said local resident Stephen Markowski. “Several neighbors plus local officials have been speaking with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) and were able to get a [search] warrant which they were able to execute on July 1. They found that the gas and electric were bypassed and there was an apartment set up in the basement which was being rented on Airbnb. That evening, [the squatters] came over with a truck and began loading furniture and other things from the house.”
According to Markowski, the house was scheduled to be foreclosed and put up for auction on June 16. However, on June 15, a notice of bankruptcy was filed. He was told by the home’s previous owner, Joe Carollo, that he wasn’t the one who filed it. This has led to concerns that the squatters may have falsified the documents with Carollo’s information in filing for bankruptcy. The filing has put the foreclosure on hold.
According to Avella, the bank that Carollo claims to have relinquished the rights to must officially get the property before getting it sealed up by the Department of Buildings. He also pointed out that the police cannot legally kick out the squatters until the property owner states nobody should be living there.
While the squatters continue to occupy the house, they aren’t actually living there. This was further reinforced by them loading furniture and other items from the house onto a box truck late one night. The Queens District Attorney’s Office is currently looking into the squatters, the house and the bankruptcy filing.
Markowski theorized that the squatters keep returning to the property despite not living in it because they hope to get paid by the bank that allegedly owns the property in exchange for them leaving. He pointed out that this isn’t the only property these people have been squatting at, noting they have been doing it at another property at 1204 New Hyde Park Rd. on Long Island.
“I spoke to the Mayor’s Office and the head of the Community Affairs Unit (CAU),” Avella said. “CAU has to sit down and coordinate with OSE, the Mayor’s Office, the Buildings Department, the fire department and the police. Right now, [these departments] are not coordinating.”
While Avella confirmed with the offices of Liu, Meng and Braunstein that they each remain involved in this issue, he also recommended the community members hold another press conference in order to keep the pressure on the city to take action. He also said he’d help by inviting the relevant agencies and some of the elected officials to the press conference on behalf of the neighborhood. The hope is this will ratchet up the city’s response.
Avella encouraged the neighborhood members to continue contacting these agencies and leaders. According to Avella, continuing to reach out to them could help to get things done by making them prioritize it.
The squatters were previously Carollo’s tenants. When Carollo left, they allegedly stopped paying rent. They’ve spent approximately two years and eight months controlling the residence.
The community leaders intend to arrange for another press conference to be held addressing the issue on Sep. 10 at 11 a.m. on the corner of 209th Street and 38th Avenue.