BY TRONE DOWD
A judge with the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) determined that the New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) inspector who was caught creating illegal living spaces in his Rosedale home should be face professional repercussions for his actions, according to a Dec. 20 ruling.
The inspector, 59-year-old Derrick Allen, was caught by the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) in September 2016 for this illicit action thanks to whistleblowers living at the Southeast Queens home. The case has been in limbo at Queens County Criminal Court for more than a year now. However, Administrative Law Judge Joycelyn McGeachy-Kuls broke the silence on the case, according to a new report from the New York Post.
“These conditions rendered the cellar unsafe and a hazard to human life,” the judge said. “[Allen] violated the public trust and the trust placed in him. Accordingly, I recommend [he] be terminated from his employment.”
When contacted for a follow-up, HPD told the Queens Tribune that it was in agreement with the judge’s remarks, referring to Allen’s actions as very serious forms of misconduct that warranted his immediate termination if convicted. Last year, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been said that Allen was immediately suspended without pay following the discovery of the issue.
According to court records, Allen converted the cellar at his 225th Street two-family home in Rosedale into four smaller rooms using drywall. According to New York City law, a cellar can only be used for storage in a two-family home. In addition, the DOI and HPD reported that the rooms were not in compliance with the city’s rules on fire safety, with no accessible exits established in case of emergency. The home also had a working gas stove pulled away from the wall to which it was connected, as well as a hole in the ground where a toilet was once stationed.
Issues with the Rosedale residence led to the execution of a second warrant at Allen’s St. Albans property located on 196th Street. HPD said that similar violations were discovered, including illegal gas and water lines all built without a permit, as well as the conversion of the cellar into two rooms, each featuring its own shower. The two rooms only had one means of egress in case of emergency.
Allen was an inspector for HPD since 1994, working primarily out of Brooklyn. Allen’s job entailed his enforcing the same laws he would break. The irony of the situation was not lost on Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
“As a code-enforcement inspector himself, the defendant should have known better than to allegedly try and profit through the unlawful conversion of his properties into multi-dwellings,” Brown said of the case. “Such illegal housing puts a strain on local city services such as parking, transportation, waste disposal and schools.”
Allen is expected to appear in court Jan. 25. He has been charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and two violations of the city’s Administrative Code. If convicted, Allen faces up to a year in jail.