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City files complaint in building evacuation

The city has filed a complaint against the owners of an apartment building in Chinatown that was evacuated Feb. 8 because of safety concerns, seeking immediate correction of code violations and monetary assistance for displaced tenants, court documents said.

The complaint, dated Feb. 15, was brought by the city’s Inspectional Services and Fire Departments against owners Alexander and Julie Szeto of Southborough. A hearing was held in Boston Housing Court yesterday, and a decision is expected at a later date, said John M. Guilfoil, a spokesman for the mayor.

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On Feb. 8, the five-story building at 19-25 Harrison Ave., was evacuated over safety fears after firefighters responded to a false alarm at the building. Approximately 45 tenants were displaced, according to court documents.

“The residents are honest, hard-working Bostonians trying to make a decent living,’’ Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday. “No one in this city should be forced to live in substandard housing with potentially dangerous code violations.’’

The complaint asks that the defendants immediately address the numerous code violations in the building, including a lack of sprinklers, fire alarms, inadequate emergency lighting, and unsafe building structure.

“Those are all serious violations,’’ said Steve MacDonald, a Fire Department spokesman. “We found some deficiencies, and we want to correct them.’’

The city is seeking to have the defendants, at their own expense, provide relocation assistance and temporary housing for the displaced residents until the Harrison Avenue property is deemed safe and tenants can move back in. The city also wants the owners to pay an amount that “the court deems just and appropriate.’’

The complaint says that, by Feb. 15, the tenants have been housed at the Josiah Quincy School, Boston community centers, and other emergency shelters at city expense. According to the complaint, “To date, none of the displaced occupants have secured permanent housing.’’

Amanda Cedrone can be reached at
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