$94,500 Fine Levied Against Sleepy Hollow Landlord

A former Sleepy Hollow Democratic Chairman and candidate for mayor, Miguel Jimenez, along with Shippy Realty, have been the subject of a lawsuit that cited 17 violations of the Village Code for a building at 196 Cortlandt Street, on the corner of Beekman Avenue. Jimenez and Cirilo Rodriguez, a local contractor, are the co-owners of Shippy Realty according to Village officials. Shippy Realty owns the property cited for numerous violations.

The action taken by the Village of Sleepy Hollow against Shippy Realty was the result of an inspection of the property at 196 Cortlandt Street on November 4, 2005 by Building Inspector Sean McCarthy. McCarthy had responded to a call from Fire Chief Daniel Hayes who declared that there was an emergency at the building. What McCarthy found were several inches of raw sewage in the basement of a building that contained multi-family dwellings, retail stores and a restaurant open to the public. During further inspection photographs were taken revealing a building in sub-standard condition. "My ultimate goal was to work with Jimenez so that he and Rodriguez would fix the violations in the building. After all, Rodriguez is a contractor and could do the necessary work. My department exhausted every opportunity to make that building safe and up to code," McCarthy said during a recent conversation. After almost two years of the stalemate the Village of Sleepy Hollow and Shippy Realty went to court on September 6, 2007. At the start of the trial the Village discontinued action against Miguel Jimenez personally and focused on Shippy Realty which listed Jimenez as President.

Of the seventeen counts of violations of the Village Code of Sleepy Hollow, eleven were upheld by the Court.

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Top: Illegal occupancy in basement
Center: First floor structural failure
Bottom: Electrical violations

According to Judge Joan Waters, "The Village satisfactorily proved that the fire resistance of the ceiling in the restaurant section was so damaged as to constitute a violation of the Village Code." In addition, "All of the alleged violations relating to inferior, missing or damaged electrical service, fixtures, junction boxes and wiring were satisfactorily proved by the Village through photographic and testimonial evidence." As for the restaurant, testimonial evidence along with photographs, "clearly established that the egress [exit] door from the restaurant was dead bolted and padlocked in violation of Village Code."

The Court’s statement regarding the condition of the building left no doubt as to the conditions the inhabitants, workers and the public were subjected to at 196 Cortlandt Street. The first sentence read, "The condition of this building shocks the conscience." In the second paragraph, Judge Waters wrote, "The credible testimony that tenants gathered dripping human waste in plastic milk jugs was nauseating. The conditions the tenants of this building were subjected to were third world, at best."

On February 26, Shippy Realty was found guilty of eleven of the seventeen violations. The Village Code cited a $250 per week fine, for each count. That amounted to a weekly total of $2,750. The court ruled that these ongoing violations had occurred over a period of 38 weeks and levied a total fine of $94,500 against Shippy Realty. That amount has to be paid within sixty days of the Court’s order.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento