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Jun 20, 2014 12:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Owner Of Illegal Apartments In Hampton Bays Cited With 50 Violations, Faces $100,000 In Fines

Jun 25, 2014 8:22 AM

Southampton Town secured a court order last week allowing it to remove 26 tenants from an illegal apartment complex in Hampton Bays that had raw sewage leaking into common areas, an infestation of vermin, and no hot water.

The State Supreme Court issued the town a temporary restraining order on June 17, barring the tenants and the owner of 192 East Montauk Highway—identified by town officials as Chris Marukos of Florida—from using or occupying the apartments, according to a press release issued by Southampton Town. Mr. Marukos was served with more than 50 code violations on May 21 and now faces approximately $100,000 in fines and jail time.

Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said the tenants, nine of whom are children, were directed to contact the Suffolk County Department of Social Services if they needed emergency housing. County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said this week that only one family has reached out to the DSS, and it did not meet the department’s requirements for such housing.

Ms. Scarlato said the town had been in contact with the tenants for the past several weeks and let them know on Friday, June 13, that the temporary restraining order was forthcoming. The town served the restraining order last Wednesday, June 18, and all the tenants were able to leave by that evening, Ms. Scarlato said, adding that some said they were happy to leave.

“That was really our biggest priority,” she said. “To make sure everyone there was safe and had a place to go.”

The property, which is zoned highway business and designated for seasonal use as cottages, includes five buildings that were illegally subdivided into eight apartments, according to the town. None of the units had rental permits, smoke detectors or secondary exits, they said.

The apartments also had septic issues that caused raw sewage to back up into showers and sinks, as well as a slew of other violations, including illegal construction, improper wiring, and raccoon and vermin infestation, according to the press release.

The town investigated the property after receiving a tip, Ms. Scarlato said. She declined to identify the tipster.

She noted that the number of rooms per unit varied, but she described them all as being “very small and very cramped,” with between one and five residents per apartment, including a single mother with four children in one.

“There were wires and pipes all exposed, extension cords running both on the floor and on the ceilings,” Ms. Scarlato said. “Two buildings had vermin and rat infestations, and it was clear that animals were living inside the ceilings of these units—their urine was running down the walls.

“It’s really disgraceful,” she added.

Town records show that the complex, which sits on a tenth of an acre, has been owned by Bayville-based 192 Hamptons Apartments LLC since 2006. Town officials confirmed on Friday that Mr. Marukos is the owner of the LLC.

Mr. Marukos could not be reached for comment this week. A phone number affixed to an “Apartments For Rent” sign on the apartment complex has been disconnected.

Ms. Scarlato said she’s not sure how much Mr. Marukos, who is believed to have a business partner who lives locally, was making off the illegal property, but noted that one tenant—a woman who lived alone—was paying $800 per month. Ms. Scarlato said she didn’t know if the tenants had leases.

She added that it was unclear when Mr. Marukos, who was uncooperative when she reached him by phone, had last visited the illegal apartment complex. “When I spoke to him, he said the properties were fine,” Ms. Scarlato recalled. “I asked him if he’d been to the apartments, and he said, ‘No, I’m in Florida.’”

Ms. Scarlato said she does not know if Mr. Marukos owns any other properties in the town.

The myriad charges filed against Mr. Marukos stem from each section of the code that he violated, such as not having a rental permit, overcrowding, providing housing that lacks smoke detectors, and sewage issues, among others, town officials said.

Though she was uncertain how much jail time the landlord could face, Ms. Scarlato noted that each violation could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, meaning that each count is potentially punishable by up to six months in jail.

Mr. Marukos was arraigned on the various charges on Friday, June 13, and is due back in Southampton Town Justice Court at 1 p.m. on Friday, August 8.

In a prepared statement issued Friday morning, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town takes such violations seriously, adding that prosecutors will seek the harshest punishment possible for Mr. Marukos.

“Violations of this nature are extremely dangerous, erode the quality of life for our residents, and will be prosecuted to the extent of the law,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who along with Ms. Throne-Holst acts as a liaison between the Town Board and the municipality’s code enforcement personnel, said this week’s bust is an example of the retooled Code Enforcement Department. While she also said the town will seek to collect all $100,000 in fines, Ms. Scalera said that punishment is only part of the equation.

“Whatever the fines are, we’re going to be going after them aggressively,” she said. “And while the fines are a big part of this, so that it’s not just seen as the cost of doing business, it’s not enough that they just pay the fines—they also have to get into compliance.”

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Excellent job by the Town. Let's eradicate these slum lords which will solve a multitude of problems.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 20, 14 1:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Oh come on, like we didn't know this has been going on for years....and yes let's make sure these illegals get another place to stay instead of kicking them out......
By Tommy Turbo (59), Deep River, CT on Jun 20, 14 5:40 PM
I am waiting for comment from the people who feel the Town is too harsh in searching out these poor people who live in such dismal conditions,,,,,,,,,
By Etians rd (541), Southampton on Jun 20, 14 6:33 PM
These poor people should NOT be living in illegal apartments that are not only dangerous to them but also to their innocent children as well as to our community and waters! Why don't people just realize that they are supposed to abide by the codes of housing and renting that are in place and that are known??? Do you want someone to get killed in a fire or to get a disease from rats??? Do you think it is fair that this landlord gets to profit off of these people by over charging them for grossly ...more
By Taylin (4), Hampton Bays on Jun 20, 14 7:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you to the town for acting on these conditions Thank you to CCHB Thank you for pressing the right buttons to get these actions. One by one we will get this town back
By baymen (26), hamptonbays on Jun 20, 14 11:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's a commendable step but is a drop in the bucket in the sea of violations all over Southampton, not to mention the East End. And so many violations are so in your face illegal and obvious it is so laughable. Code enforcement against illegal housing in Southampton - what a quaint concept like the return of the hansom cab.
By Obbservant (443), southampton on Jun 21, 14 12:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Kudos to Southampton Town!!!!!!!!!!!!
By Summer Resident (245), Southampton N.Y. on Jun 21, 14 12:12 PM
While it is great that the Town finally did their job, one wonders what exactly took them so long to get around to doing it. This is not a new situation and it is only one of many long standing rentals with violations.

Let's see if they continue the momentum or if it was a token to shut people up.
By bb (907), Hampton Bays on Jul 3, 14 8:23 AM
I give all the credit to the CCHB for these busts going on. Without then none of these things would be going on.
By islander6615 (133), hampton bays on Jun 22, 14 1:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
My prediction: Mr Marukos will hire a politically connected lawyer, pay a token fine, make a couple of improvements and it will be back to business as usual.
By bird (814), Southampton on Jun 23, 14 7:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
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