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Post date: April 2 2002

Mount Vernon Drug House Targeted By State Suit

State Attorney General Spitzer today filed a civil suit against a Westchester County landlord who has failed repeatedly to address drug-related activity at an apartment building in Mount Vernon.

The suit asks a state court to compel the landlord to improve security at the building and cooperate with local police in combating drug trafficking. In addition, the suit asks the court to do what the landlord has failed to do -- evict a tenant with repeated convictions for marijuana offenses.

The action, the first of its kind in Westchester County, is a continuation of the Attorney General’s "Clean Sweep" initiative, a cooperative venture with local law enforcement.

"Landlords must not turn a blind eye toward illegal activity on their property," Spitzer said. "They have an obligation to cooperate with authorities in protecting the neighborhood."

At a news conference announcing the lawsuit, Spitzer was joined by Westchester County Executive Andy Spano, and Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest D. Davis. The Attorney General worked jointly with the county and city officials as well as the Mount Vernon Police Department in developing the case.

Westchester County Executive Spano said: "This is the perfect example of different levels of government working cooperatively to solve a problem. In this case, I was aware of a situation in Mount Vernon that the Attorney General’s Office could help with and we were able to make a connection that ended in the result you see today. I would like to commend the Attorney General for this innovative and aggressive approach to help urban areas fight back against the blight of drug trafficking."

Mayor Davis said: "Operation Clean Sweep is definitely a step in the right direction. I support completely the efforts put forth by Attorney General Spitzer, County Executive Spano, and the Mount Vernon Police Department to eradicate the illegal activity that was taking place at this apartment building. We do not condone the behavior of anyone, be it landlords or tenants, who jeopardize the good and welfare of others. In one fell swoop we were able to rid the neighborhood of a cancer while improving the quality of life for the countless others who live and work in the area."

The "Clean Sweep" lawsuit employs a legal strategy developed by Spitzer and already implemented in Albany, Newburgh, and Utica to put an end to persistent drug activity in residential buildings.

Today’s action, filed in State Supreme Court, Westchester County, targets a multi-unit apartment building located at 150 South Second Avenue. It is located in the city’s Third Street Development corridor, a mixed residential neighborhood which includes a day care center, a senior citizens residence, and a church.

Since 1997, the building has been the site of numerous arrests, raids, and convictions involving marijuana and cocaine trafficking.

The legal action names: Anthony Manganiello, of Mount Vernon; and Sonia Bryan, 46, a tenant at 150 South Second Avenue. In addition to renting apartments at the Second Avenue property, Manganiello is active in other real estate ventures in Westchester County.

Police have conducted undercover purchases and searches at Bryan’s apartment on six occasions, resulting in the total recovery of more than 650 small packages of marijuana. In the last two years, the Department has also uncovered evidence of drug activity in two other apartments in the building.

The lawsuit seeks the eviction of Bryan from 150 South Second, and an order prohibiting her from coming within 200 feet of the building. The Attorney General also asks the court to order Manganiello to:

  • Install and maintain a door lock at the front entrance of the building;
  • Take steps to prevent non-tenants from entering the building at will;
  • Install and maintain a surveillance camera inside the entryway;
  • Provide active and effective security services including daily patrols, and frequent contact with residents and neighbors;
  • Cooperate with Mount Vernon Police Department to ensure the eradication of drug activity at the property;
  • Prominently display signs within the building urging tenants to report suspicious activity on the premises; and
  • Provide a listing of the building’s tenants to the Attorney General’s Office and evict tenants who use the premises for unlawful purposes.

The case has been brought as a "special proceeding", allowing for an expedited resolution, under existing provisions of the state’s Real Property and Executive Law.

Spitzer emphasized that Clean Sweep cases across the state target unusually delinquent landlords who ignore persistent illegal drug activity on their property.

The Mount Vernon case was handled by the Attorney General’s White Plains Regional Office, Gary Brown, Assistant Attorney General in-Charge, Assistant Attorney General Doris K. Morin, and Assistant Attorney General Brian Stettin.

Spitzer has also proposed legislation that would enhance the ability of landlords, tenants, and law enforcement agencies to prevent the operation of illegal businesses in residential buildings. The legislation would establish a legal presumption of the existence of an illegal business at a location where there have been two drug sale convictions within one year.