The owner of 29-33 Edinboro St. in Chinatown has gone to federal court to try to block a receiver appointed by a state Housing Court judge from hiring engineers and contractors to repair the crumbling and currently vacant building.
In August, a housing-court judge agreed with ISD to appoint a receiver with the power to do what it takes to make the building safe again - and then bill the owner, Catherine Lee of West Newton, for the work. But Lee and Esther Zee Lee, of the same address in West Newton, who says she now owns the building, this week filed to move the case to US District Court in Boston, alleging the order violates their due-process rights under the 14th Amendment.
In July, 2019, Catherine Lee had signed an agreement with ISD that the building was unsafe and that she would hire a structural engineer to make recommendations on how to make the building safe again. The agreement came a couple months after ISD had gone to Housing Court seeking an order to make her make repairs.
Housing Court Judge Irene Bagdoian appointed a receiver, ruling on Aug. 26 that Lee had done nothing to fix the building:
The defendant has been granted repeated opportunities to correct code violations which, in this Court's view, pose a serious threat to the health and safety of the occupants of adjacent buildings and the densely populated area where the subject property is located. The defendant has failed to correct the violations despite the chances provided by this Court. Equity demands that these violations be corrected in a timely manner. A receiver will accomplish this.
In their motion to move the case to federal court, Catherine Lee and Esther Zee Lee, who shares the same West Newton address, said the Housing Court actions violate their due-process rights because the trust controlled by Catherine Lee sold the building to a trust controlled by Esther Zee Lee this past August - for the sum of $1 - yet Esther Zee Lee was never notified of the proceedings, including the appointment of a receiver, and that ISD added her as a defendant in September without proper prior notice.
Also, the motion continues, the cost of repairs could exceed $4 million, well above the $75,000 minimum required for lawsuits in federal court.
According to city assessing records, the building has a value of $2.9 million.
Copies of some of Housing Court filings (14.2M PDF).
Lee request to move case to federal court (1.3M PDF).