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The New York City Department of Buildings is currently investigating a case where two Manhattan landlords cut two Lower East Side condo units horizontally in order to create 18 “micro apartments.” The result, according to an inspector that visited the building this month, included half-size doors, ceiling heights of 4.5 feet to 6 feet, and a slew of illegal additions. The tenants who had been living in the 70-square-foot units have been offered relocation assistance through the American Red Cross. NPR’s Bill Chappell has more details on the story below.

Housing officials became aware of the illegal subdivisions last week after receiving an anonymous 311 complaint about one of the condos. Together, the units occupy a corner in the building's two top floors.

"Upon arrival to the scene, [Department of Buildings inspectors] discovered that a new floor had been illegally constructed inside of apartment #601, one of the apartments between the existing 4th and 5th floors, which was being occupied by 9 illegal Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units," the agency says.

According to the Gothamist website, the condo is listed as a 634-square-foot unit. If it had been divided evenly into the nine subunits, each living space would measure about 70 square feet. While rental rates weren't officially disclosed, one tenant told the Post that he had been paying $600 a month.

Officials promptly ordered all occupants to vacate Apartment 601, hitting the owner, Xue Ping Ni, with a potential maximum fine of $144,750 in civil penalties and ordering the subunits to be stripped out of the space. The penalty is set to rise, as the city will also fine Ni $1,000 every day that each illegal subunit remains on the premises, for up to 45 days.

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