Preliminary investigation: Before finding a lawyer

A quickie here, supplementing yesterday’s piece about my valiant—if counterintuitive—efforts to save my building by getting it violated.

The Department of Buildings does much more than send out inspectors (although since NYC is now publicly up-in-arms about illegal apartments that burn down, killing the residents, inspection is certainly their top priority).

The nice thing for us proles: the DOB website gets you, almost literally, into any building in New York. Click on the DOB site to your right, under my Sites of Interest area. On the right side of the first DOB screen that pops up is an inviting little box, with blanks to fill in. If you knew my address, for instance, you could enter it into the appropriate areas and read for yourself every violation from Landmark, from Sanitation, from DOB dating back to 1926.

(You would also see a blood-red big banner across my building’s info reading PARTIAL STOP WORK ORDER IN PLACE. That was my proud doing, too, but not until 2010.)

You can search every property in NYC. That is, you can investigate whether your neighbors have incurred or cured violations and, indeed, who exactly owns the property, its assessed value and what sort of property it is. Lots of interesting information.

(There’s a sub site, too, on which you can learn all the mortgage information about any property [I think the site is called ACRIS], but I’ve never been able to get into it by myself. However, I’ve read all the info for my building and seen the mortgage history back decades.)

If you enter the Department of Finance website (Department of Finance) you could discover that the Little Crooked House Tenants Corp. co-op, for instance, owes the city $91,704.81 in real estate taxes. We are slightly over three years in tax arrears. The Skush-O’Briens haven’t had the taxes paid since October 2007.

You can, if you like, pay those taxes for us. Yep, there’s a little voucher that says “Amount Enclosed…If Paying The Easy Way Isn’t For You, Mail Payment To…”

But you don’t want to do that, do you?

What you want to do is check whether your neighbors are up to day in paying their real estate taxes. (They are, believe me.)

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