[Hpn] Squatter falls from high-rise window during police sweep

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Thu, 10 Feb 2005 05:25:22 -0500


Feb. 9, 2005. 06:27 AM

Building under city watch
Dilapidated units monitored regularly
Owner denies outstanding property violations


The Lansdowne Ave. apartment building where a squatter fell or jumped
from a seventh-floor window during a police sweep for trespassers Sunday
night has been under city watch for property standards violations since
at least 2001.

The city has two outstanding orders against building owner Vincenzo
Barrasso for property standards violations, said Carlos Martins,
director of investigations with the municipal licensing and standards
division for the City of Toronto.

When contacted by the Star, Barrasso said there are no work orders for
1011 Lansdowne Ave.

"Everything is fine. I have no concerns. The building is in good
condition," he said in a brief phone interview yesterday. "I have an
administrator there and we work along with the city."

Barrasso had no further comment.

But Barrasso, who owns four other highrises in the city, has a long
history with city inspectors.

He was charged by the city at least 18 times between 1997 and 2003 for
failing to maintain his buildings, incurring more than $150,000 in fines
and a 30-day jail sentence. In a 2003 appeal, Barrasso paid $80,000 in
fines and the jail sentence was waived.

The province's Special Investigations Unit is investigating the events
surrounding the woman's fall. Police had been trying to arrest her
boyfriend and charge him with trespassing. The woman had been squatting
in a deserted apartment in the building for several days, neighbours
said. St. Michael's Hospital would give no update on her condition last

Police maintain a regular presence at 1011 Lansdowne, where a high
vacancy rate threatens security in the 23-storey building. Of the
roughly 365 units, about 100 remain empty, attracting drug dealers and
users who take up residence in the unoccupied units.

To combat the high number of trespassers and to improve security, the
neighbouring community and the apartment tenants and management asked
for police assistance to eject the squatters from the empty units, and
Project Clean Sweep was implemented for the month of January.

Police laid 36 trespassing charges, three drug charges and made 13
related arrests.

Yet, one week after Project Clean Sweep concluded, a routine police
sweep to clear transients from the building revealed trespassing was
still a problem.

Local councillor Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport) authored a memo to
the planning and transportation committee yesterday, requesting a report
to outline what tools the city needs to deal with landlords in violation.

"It could possibly include powers from the province so that we can
prevent gross neglect on the part of the landlords," he said.

"City staff are working very hard to enforce property standards, but
they don't often have the authority that they need to be effective," he
said. "We don't have all the tools we need, not just at 1011 Lansdowne,
but at properties across the city."

Martins also agrees that the city needs more legislative authority to
clean up dilapidated apartment buildings.

"The city clearly has an obligation to enforce its property standards
bylaw, but getting compliance is not that easy," he said. To keep a
close watch on 1011 Lansdowne, a city staff member is on site at least
once a week to monitor the building, said Martins.

Since 2002, the city has obtained 18 prosecutions and seven convictions
against Barrasso. The city has collected $9,250 in fines.

Sharon Rogers, property manager for 1011 Lansdowne Ave., said
outstanding violations are left over from the previous property manager
and she is now complying with the orders.

"There's been a 150 per cent turnaround since I started in August 2004,"
she said. "I do everything in my power to work with the city and the
police to try and clean up the building."

But the building's high vacancy rate will continue to be a problem,
Rogers said. Hundreds of applicants have been refused because Rogers
believes they are not stable tenants.

"We've recently rented 13 (units)," said Rogers, who has 26 years
experience as a property manager. "But it's hard to get a good tenant."

This message is certified virus-free..
Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
Version: 7.0.300 / Virus Database: 265.8.6 - Release Date: 2/7/2005