Columbus, OH - Some families at the Westerville Park Apartments on the Northeast Side live without water or electrical service or working smoke detectors. Some units have broken stoves or are overrun by cockroaches.
By Mark Ferenchik
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Yesterday, resident Fatuma Issack walked to a nearby apartment to fill up gallon jugs of water. Her apartment, which has cracked walls and visible water damage, has had no water since Jan. 1.
Through an interpreter, she said she is scared to go outside at night because there’s no exterior light.
City code-enforcement officers found violations at seven units in the complex near Morse Road and Cleveland Avenue, and the apartment manager was ordered yesterday to fix smoke detectors and restore water service by Monday. The other problems must be fixed within 30 days.
It’s not the first time the city has tangled with Westerville Park.
In August, city building inspectors ordered the owner to fix deteriorating walkways and staircases. No work has been done, and city officials have yet to force the owner to comply.
“We have not had communication from the owner or property-management team there,” said Ryan Kelsey, a management analyst for the Department of Building and Zoning Services.
But last night, Paul Gabrail, a member of the ownership group, emailed a statement to The Dispatch, saying he is well aware of the city violations and has gone into contract to get the work done, which will cost more than $213,000.
He said that in the past year, owners have spent $200,000 on the property and plan to spend $300,000 on top of that, for a total of more than $700,000.
“We very much believe in the future of the property and we are committed, and have committed fully to it financially,” he said.
Inspectors posted a second notice on Jan. 15, and Kelsey said that building inspectors should be back out on Monday after code enforcement told his department that the stairs and walkways have continued to deteriorate.
Some areas below the walkways at the complex are cordoned off with red tape. There are two holes in second-floor walkways supported by rusting beams. The walkways are lined by deteriorating railings.
Assistant City Attorney Jaiza Page said she is prepared to sue the owners if building inspectors find that the repairs have not been made. Building inspectors have dealt with two other violations at the complex since 2008, Kelsey said.
The complex is home to Somalis, Latinos and African-Americans, said Hassan Omar, who leads the Somali Community Association of Ohio. He called the city’s code-enforcement office this week about the problems that tenants are dealing with in their apartments.
“The landlords ignored it and did not pay attention,” Omar said.
Tenants say they don’t feel safe. Family members in one unit said they use a flashlight to use the bathroom, which lost power.
Khadija Dagane said she spoke to a manager on Nov. 18 about restoring water to her unit. “They said they’d fix it. They never showed up,” she said.
Dana Rose, the city’s code-enforcement administrator, said officials are trying to figure out why some units in a building have water service while others there don’t.
The 4-acre complex was built in 1972 and is owned by 2371 Clybourn LLC of Cleveland. The company bought the complex in 2007 for $1.95 million, according to Franklin County auditor’s records.
Gabrail also is a member of the partnership group that owns the nearby Summit Park Apartments off Morse Road, where inspectors found code violations in September 2012 for deteriorating walkways, bowing support columns, broken stairways and other problems. Prosecutors filed a complaint about the complex in April. In June, the city ordered 18 buildings vacated for safety issues.
In November, Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Dan Hawkins ordered the owners to fix the problems by Dec. 31.
Kelsey said the owners have made improvements and were given new deadlines to resolve the issues. They have a Feb. 24 court date to update the judge on the work.