9/21/2007: Owner Still Mopping Up Mess From Contractor

Shirley L. Huntley

September 21, 2007

The process of trying to reopen a Curves Gym that was shuttered by the NYC Department of Buildings last July hasn’t been easy.

The department told the owner of the Springfield Gardens gym, Shauwana Dill-Darby, that the certificate of occupancy was invalid because the contractor she hired allegedly forged an engineer’s signature on the documents used for its acquisition. According to Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown, the contractor, Satroghaun Singh, repeated the practice on nearly 300 other documents related to building plans in Queens.

Besides the certificate of occupancy, he also forged the signatures of inspectors who were supposed to review the building’s plumbing and air conditioning systems.

The buildings department’s Web site shows that a vacate order still exists on the property, which means the gym is still not allowed to be open, a spokeswoman said. She added that the property owner still needs approval on a certificate of occupancy.

But a worker at the facility who answered the phone recently said the gym has been opened since the beginning of September. Dill-Darby declined to comment on the situation until it has been fully resolved.

Dill-Darby’s plight drew the attention of South Queens elected officials, like Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-St. Albans) and Senator Shirley L. Huntley (D-Jamaica). The two spearheaded a rally at the gym shortly after it closed.

Officials reprimanded the buildings department for allowing Singh to conduct business for a year and a half after the department first began investigating him in November 2005.

In July, Dill-Darby called the situation "a tragedy," and gym members anxiously waited for a resolution. The buildings department said it would work quickly to rectify the gym’s inspections and documents.

Months later, the situation still remains murky.

Ruben Wills, a spokesman for Senator Huntley, said Dill-Darby’s situation highlights problems with the buildings department.

He noted that because Dill-Darby was not to blame, the department should have had its own engineers and architects available to expedite her case.

Senator Huntley is currently working to organize a public meeting with the buildings department and Southeast Queens community boards. The community will have a chance to present recommendations on how the agency can better protect home and business owners from unscrupulous contractors and architects.