Several Bayside residents joined former Queens politician Tony Avella and officers from the NYPD’s 111th Precinct on Saturday, Sept. 10, to voice their continued opposition to conditions created by squatters who occupy an abandoned home on 38th Avenue.
According to Avella, the rally was held to alert the city and respective agencies that more efforts need to be made to “end this nightmare for the community once and for all.”
“The house needs to be sealed to prevent any further access until the bank can get total control of the home and auction it off to a real new homeowner,” Avella said during the rally, which was held at the corner of 39th Avenue and 208th Street.
Over two years, the former homeowner abandoned the home at 208-16 38th Ave., leaving it to the bank that held the mortgage, according to Avella. Sometime after that, the squatters entered the home. Their illegal occupation led to significant quality-of-life disruptions, shootings and Airbnb parties.
The main squatters consist of a man and his two sons, and a woman who is a host on Airbnb, according to residents. Following several complaints from residents to kick out the squatters, the 111th Precinct and Con Edison were successful in cutting the power off to the home. However, the squatters have still been observed coming and going late at night for short periods of time, according to Avella.
Stephen Markowski, who has been leading the effort with several neighbors to rid the squatters from the home, said after almost three years, “the time has come to put an end to this nightmare and continue with our normal quality of life.”
“They came down and shut off the water service. A maintenance company from one of the mortgage lenders came and did some maintenance. Shortly after the end of January, we were joking around saying people were coming and going, that they’re probably squatters and advertising on Airbnb,” Markowski said. “No joke, that was the deal. They moved in and started renting the house on Airbnb.”
According to Markowski, that’s when residents started to see party buses and people who were drunk and under the influence walking around the neighborhood making lewd comments.
“We want to feel safe,” Markowski said.
Markowski recalled a shooting that took place in March, which members of the Bayside community blamed on the squatters, as 19 gunshots were fired throughout the neighborhood around early morning leaving one person injured.
“We have footage showing that there were at least four shooters lined up across 38th Avenue, 21 shots fired down and they hit the vehicles in front of this house. They hit the vehicle across the street,” Markowski said. “The bullet went through a rear door through a child’s seat and the bullet was laying on the floor. Just imagine, what if that had happened when the parents were returning from childcare?”
Residents thanked the 111th Precinct for the work they’re doing to keep the neighborhood safe, and the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement for leading a robust effort to eliminate the transient Airbnb tenants and work to allow the city Buildings Department (DOB) to identify building code violations.
Meanwhile, northeast Queens lawmakers such as Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator John Liu and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein have been in contact with residents regarding the issue.
According to a spokesperson from Braunstein’s office, all reports from authorities indicate that the squatters vacated the property in July, when a warrant was executed at the property and several NYC DOB and FDNY violations were issued. Additionally, the assemblyman contacted Con Edison about the location and secured gas and electricity shut off in July.
Braunstein’s office will continue to monitor the situation as the legal process unfolds, the spokesperson said.
A representative from Meng’s office said the congresswoman has been concerned about the situation and stands with the community in vacating the squatters from the home.
“She’s a neighbor here, not just a congress member,” the representative said at the rally. “She lives a few blocks away, and she knows this is a very nice and quiet residential area that should not be disrupted like this and residents’ safety should not be put at risk like this.”
In a statement to QNS, Liu said for over two years, his office along with Braunstein and Meng, have been in constant contact with city agencies and Airbnb to make sure the location would not impose a further burden to the community.
“Working with Con Edison, the 111 Police Precinct, Airbnb, the Department of Buildings, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, the Queens district attorney and members of the Bellcourt Civic Association, we were able to get the listing banned from Airbnb, and the power and gas cut,” Liu said. “Our offices continue to monitor this property to ensure our community remains safe from bad actors.”