Until last week, Barbara J. Shinabery lived in a third-floor bedroom with two unfinished walls, a plywood floor and a leaky closet in a Parker Street house that her landlord was converting into a boarding house.
But then city code enforcement officials ordered her and as many as a dozen other tenants to vacate the premises because they say the renovations have left the house unsafe to inhabit.
The conditions on the first floor include an unfinished floor, interior walls and ceiling. Several windows and a back door are missing and covered with wood. The building is heated only by a pellet stove. Dog feces covers the back porch. Third-floor bedrooms lack a safe, secondary escape.
That prompted the code enforcement department to issue multiple violations for its condition.
It was a situation Ive never come across, Code Enforcement Supervisor Shawn R. McWayne said Tuesday.
Tenants were left scurrying to find someplace else to live, although landlord Tiffany Stewart said Tuesday that she and her husband, Randall, helped many of them find other accommodations.
Miss Shinabery, who had been living there for several months and paying $400 a month, has moved in temporarily with a friend until she can find her own place. On disability for a bad back and other health issues, she said she previously was left homeless from her Bronson Street apartment following the death of her landlord.
Mrs. Stewart, 23, and her husband obtained a building permit for a one-family home, but the city had no idea the young couple was converting the rooms into studio apartments, code enforcement officials said.
They also were living in the 3,389-square-foot house they were in the process of buying from their friend Chui Sam Chan through a land contract, Mrs. Stewart said. They were still working on renovating the building when Miss Shinabery called the code enforcement office about the situation.
Mrs. Stewart, who moved here 2½ years ago because her husband is stationed at Fort Drum, denied that tenants were living in rooms without drywall and finished ceilings, as Miss Shinabery claimed.
While they were working on the house during the past five months, Mrs. Stewart said, they started taking in people who had no other place to go.
One man lived in a shed in an abandoned house; another was living in a shelter, she said. Some paid rent, and some did not, she said.
They paid what they could. It was sad, she said. I was just trying to help.
But the Stewarts, who have since found another apartment until the renovations can be completed, now know they should never have allowed the people to move in there.
It came back to bite me in the butt, Mrs. Stewart said.