We first met Kym Gomes this past April, a couple of days after she was plucked from her fourth floor apartment by a fire department cherry picker. This 18-year resident of a building on East 12th Street was unable to walk down the stairs of the tenement because the staircase had been ripped out. The Buildings Department put an immediate stop to the project and imposed a $1500 fine on the owner, controversial East Village landlord Ben Shaoul. Yesterday morning, we visited Gomes again, although speaking with her was not easy. As you can see from the photo posted above, we were separated by the rubble created after workers finally resumed the staircase-replacement project.
During the first go-around in the spring, the Buildings Department told us Shaoul had not filed any permit for the job. This time, he had DOB approval but by mid-afternoon (prompted by a request from Community Board 3) city inspectors were on the scene investigating whether the staircase replacement was proceeding as planned. Before long, they had filed a “partial stop work order,” citing workers’ failure to provide an unobstructed exit from the building. By the evening, however, work had resumed and the project was being completed.
A week ago residents received a letter advising them that the city had approved the replacement of the staircase “in its entirety” and that work would take place beginning Monday July 30th and continue through Thursday. The letter continued, “it is recommended that you depart the building for these days by 8:30 a.m. and don’t return to the building until after 5 p.m.”
Gomes works an afternoon/evening job, and said she had no other place to go during the day. “What am I supposed to do? Roam the streets of New York City?,” she asked. Gomes said she called the management office to discuss her concerns but no one responded.
We also placed a call yesterday to Shaoul’s office requesting comment for this story. As of this morning, there has been no reply. By the end of the day, Buildings Department records indicated the partial stop work order had been “rescinded.”