A contractor charged with manslaughter for his role in an East Village gas explosion is illegally renovating apartments in Harlem, according to a new complaint.
Dilber Kukic who allegedly sprinted out of the East Village building in March 2015 without warning anyone it was about to blow is making gut renovations to four apartments in a building on W. 154th St. without any permits, according to a whistleblower who provided a Department of Buildings complaint about the work to the Daily News.
We have rented to almost everyone currently living in these properties and I am concerned for their safety, whistleblower Jerry Leazer said.
Leazer worked as a broker for the six-floor, 54-unit building through his company, Apartments Expert, until last month.
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Its a dangerous situation, he said, adding hed become concerned about legal liabilities due to the off-the-books renovations.
Leazers complaint says Kukic, 42, and other workers have removed walls and rewired the apartments without permits.
Kukic, who is due in court March 23, does not currently have a license from the Department of Buildings. He is accused of manipulating gas lines three years ago at a Second Ave. building, causing the catastrophic blast that killed two people.
Leazer said the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, which is prosecuting Kukic, was investigating his complaint about the Uptown building. A spokeswoman for Vance would not comment on an ongoing investigation.
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Inspectors visited the building early Thursday but were unable to enter. They posted a notice for the landlord to call and schedule an inspection.
From the outside of the building, the inspector found no apparent evidence that illegal work was being performed, a buildings spokeswoman said.
The News entered the building and spoke with a neighbor of one of the renovated apartments, who said she recognized Kukic.
The whole apartment is gutted. There are no walls, nothing, said the woman on the second floor, who added shes lived in the building for 20 years.
My walls were shaking. Theres so much noise with all the drilling … Ive seen no permits.
After attempting to contact Kukic, the owner of Allstate Home Remodeling, who identified himself as Joe Yusef, called The News and said the contractor accused of negligent homicide worked for him. Dilber only managed materials and did not do actual construction, Yusef said. To be honest, Dilber doesnt even put a screw in the job site. He has to work under my conditions.
East Village, Downtown, I have no clue whatever happened down there. This is not something were doing Im not doing any crazy thing with gas, I dont work like that.
A public records search found a Jusuf Mehovic listed as the owner of Allstate Home Remodeling.
Yusef said he was only making cosmetic changes to three apartments.
His probation officer knows. Hes allowed to work, said Kukics attorney, Marc Agnifilo. As long as the company is licensed, my understanding is he can work there as an employee.
Leazer told The News hed decided to stop working as a broker for the building last month after Kukic and other workers began gutting three one-bedroom apartments, with plans to convert them to two-bedroom units. No permits are online regarding such work.
The landlord, John Schreiber of Uphattan Corporation, confirmed hed used Kukic in the past.
I dont know what apartments youre talking about, Schreiber added, before hanging up on The News.
Records show the building has 18 open violations, including for elevator defects. One open violation from 2012 regarding a failure to submit paperwork about the buildings exterior notes respondent has demonstrated a history of non-compliance. The landlord was hit with a $10,000 fine.
Tenants said the building has mold, roaches and crumbling infrastructure. Older tenants were pushed out, some said.
My apartment is newly renovated and my ceiling is still falling in, a sixth-floor tenant told The News.
The tenant didnt know if Kukic was involved with her shoddy renovations, but she wasnt happy he was working in the building.
That doesnt make me feel good at all, she said.