The Post has learned that the New York City millionaire known for moonlighting as a can collector has neglected one of her Manhattan properties for almost a decade, and now the city is about to demolish the landmark-protected townhouse.
But critics say the owner is crazy as a fox and is going to make millions of dollars from the demolition.
Lisa Fikowski, 71, became known as the quirky purse runner who drove around her Brooklyn neighborhood in a graffiti-covered, trash-filled jalopy, secretly owning more than $8 million worth of Manhattan real estate.
City officials recently told The Post that Fikowski is now under gunpoint for leaving one of her Harlem properties in such disrepair that a 125-year-old building in the Sugar Hill Historic District is unsafe and must be demolished.
Over a nine-year period, the site has accumulated thousands of dollars in fines, countless violations and city lawsuits, prompting the Department of Buildings to take matters into their own hands and plan to level the historic brick building at 451 Convention Avenue.
Despite the fact that the building is protected by a monument of architecture, the city authorities considered it a “threat to the life of the population and neighboring occupied buildings.”
The derelict building, adjacent to four nearly identical row houses built in 1897, suffered a large hole in the roof, partially collapsed interior floors, long-term water damage, missing windows, a rusty cornice and a raccoon infestation. records and court documents.
It was infiltrated by homeless asylum seekers and used as a drug sanctuary, according to complaints from last month.
Prominent building owners are required by law to maintain the property in good repair, something city officials say Fikowski has not done over and over again.
Fikowski, who lives in Brooklyn and bought a home in Harlem in 2000, has largely ignored dozens of requests from the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of Buildings — dating back to 2013 — to fix damage or face demolition and fines.
City agencies said the eccentric homeowner, who owns two other famous Harlem properties, hasn’t paid a dime of the thousands of dollars in fines she’s levied and hasn’t done any actual repairs to the four-story building.
She applied for just a handful of work permits in the nine years the city begged her to renovate the famous row house, records show. Work permits were canceled each time as incomplete.
As court records show, the self-described “old-fashioned bohemian” has blamed the building’s lack of access and raccoon infestation as the reasons it has stalled over the years. The damage was caused by a fire that leveled a nearby building a few years ago, she said.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission sued Fikowski in 2019 for failing to make any repairs and threatened with fines of up to $5,000 a day.
A year later, a judge ultimately sided with the commission, ruling that the Brooklyn resident must pay damages to the city.
“After years of forcing the owner of 451 Convent Avenue into voluntary repairs, including multiple violations and an order from the LPC chairman, LPC filed a negligent demolition lawsuit seeking a court order for forced repairs and financial penalties. an LPC spokesperson said in a statement to The Post. “The judge in this case ruled against the owner.”
But the court decision did not push Fikovsky to repair.
Now, two years later, according to documents filed on July 13, DOB has demanded the famous row house be demolished.
Earlier this month, a city-hired crew stopped at the site to disconnect sewer and water pipes and prepare for demolition.
But neighbors on Convention Avenue are upset that the row house will be demolished despite its protected landmark — and none other than the city itself.
“If a [the demolition] goes ahead with no visible light, the cynical millionaire will make millions more and the irreplaceable gem of the city will be lost forever,” said Projal Dutta, who lives next to the dilapidated building and is a senior MTA official.
“Basically she wants this building to disappear because I think the land will be much more profitable for her,” Datta suggested. “It’s kind of a cynical way of looking at things, but I think that’s what’s happening.”
Along with four attached row houses, 451 Convention Avenue received landmark status as part of the Sugar Hill Historic District in 2001 for its architecture and history.
The Renaissance-style building, with decorative brickwork and limestone trim, was considered architecturally significant for the area and time period.
According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission documents, the Sugar Hill area rose to prominence in the 1930s and 1940s when “a sizable group of black professionals involved in law, business, literature, music, and the arts.”
Datta, director of sustainability for the MTA, said he fell in love with the buildings and their history after learning about the former owner of his famous home.
It belonged to a black political activist named Helen Taylor, who broke down the color barriers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where she worked as a draftsman. She lived in the house until her death in 2013 at the age of 91.
According to her family, Taylor spent her last years fighting to get neighboring building owners, including Fikowski, to renovate the property.
“She was still calling from her hospital bed to fix her house on Convention Avenue and trying to get the developers who owned the houses next door to fix it,” Taylor’s niece, Marsha Saldana, told the Amsterdam News after her death. “She fought all the time. She just didn’t want to go.”
Datta, a registered architect, said two buildings in the adjoining row were in worse condition than Monastery 451 when he first moved into his house, which he renovated himself, in 2014.
Both of these buildings were saved by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development through a partnership with the nonprofit Ecumenical Community Development Organization. The Harlem-based organization restored the buildings and then sold them to government employees in 2020, according to Dutta and property records.
“Two buildings built by the same developer as part of the same block have been restored to good condition from a worse state … so it’s doable and the pouf of this is just a few feet away,” Datta said.
Datta believes that the building at 451 is still structurally sound given its compact size and can and should be saved.
“I don’t think there is any [danger] inevitable collapse,” he said.
He added that if Fikowski does not make repairs, the city must find someone who will.
Datta noted that private owners are prohibited from demolishing listed buildings and that Fikowski could make a hefty sum if he sells land with 451 people sitting next to an empty lot.
He said the seventy-year-old woman who worked as a marketing analyst at AT&T and briefly as a stockbroker was smarter and more financially savvy than her disheveled, scavenger and scavenger.
“That aura that she has, I think is at least partly cultivated,” he said, given her success in the New York real estate market.
Fikowski, who holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, is the daughter of prominent Washington, DC economists. Her father was the head of the economics department at the Tax Analysis Office of the Ministry of Finance, and her mother traveled the world doing business deals for the Department of Labor.
Despite her well-to-do upbringing, Fikowski, who lives in a $1 million co-op near Prospect Park, is known for collecting and storing trash on her property and her 1993 Toyota Camry, angering neighbors in both Manhattan and in Brooklyn.
Two of her famous buildings in Harlem, at 47 and 60 Hamilton Terrace, are also empty and in varying degrees of disrepair.
The townhouse at 47 Hamilton Terrace has an open building code violation since 2020 due to cracks in its exterior walls, and neighbors of the two brownstone houses have been complaining about rat infestation, bad smell and piles of trash and clothes on the property for several years. as the DOB records show. .
Despite being run down, one of the buildings has a market value of more than $4 million, according to a city estimate.
Fikowski said she planned to renovate her run-down Harlem property in a 2018 interview with The Post, but no work was done.
“In New York, you always have repairs because the city requires you to do some things,” she said then.
A year later, she told The Post she was too busy to make repairs.
Fikowski did not respond to recent phone or email requests for comment from The Post. Her lawyer also did not respond to messages.
DOB said a demolition date has not yet been set, but Datta said he spotted work crews at the Fikowski site on August 10. The worker said they were there to cut off sewer and water lines.
“I think financially I will probably be better off with the new building. [at the property] with a few apartments to be sold or rented out for a lot of money – this will probably increase the value of my property,” Datta said of the 451 monastery, which is at the end of a row of houses and whose demolition can occur without significant impact on other houses. characteristics.
“Nevertheless, I feel like it’s a beautiful, beautiful block… and it’s quite possible that these are the very last single-family houses built on that pre-war model in Manhattan, and it’s a real heartbreak to see one of them demolished.” a pity.”