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East Boston garage used as illegal crash pad by flight attendants, city officials say

Three airline flight attendants packed their belongings into a white sport utility vehicle in East Boston on Thursday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Boston inspectors on Thursday shut down an illegal “crash pad” rented to flight attendants on layovers from nearby Logan Airport, saying it was “unfit for human habitation.”

The East Boston property, above what was originally built as a parking and repair garage, had been converted into a cramped apartment, where short-term residents slept in bunk beds and shared a kitchen, officials said. The building had no smoke alarms and only one exit.

During a search on Tuesday, inspectors learned that 19 occupants were each paying $300 a month to stay at the Geneva Street building, for a total rent of $5,700, according to the city’s Inspectional Services Department. The property owner never received the permits needed to create a living unit, officials said.

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“All occupants are believed to be airline stewardess who refer to these type of units as crash pads,” ISD said in a statement. “This type of flagrant disregard for the rules and regulations related to the permitting process is unacceptable.”

The building’s owner, Aaron M. Daigneault, said at a hearing Thursday he did not know he needed a permit to build a residential unit and believed all the furniture in the building belonged to the tenants, according to city authorities. Daigneault could not be reached for comment.

After the hearing, Sheila Cavaleri, an inspectional services hearing officer, found there was sufficient cause to condemn the building as “unfit for human habitation.” The ruling could be lifted if Daigneault brings the property up to code and registers the two rental units, among other stipulations, city officials said.

A reinspection of the building is scheduled for April 14.

On Thursday, several people stopped at the property to collect their belongings. At about 12:30 p.m., police escorted three women, who were carrying bags of bedding and drawers of clothing, from the building. They did not respond to questions from reporters gathered outside.

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The property, 37-39 Geneva St., is currently listed on Apartments.com as a 4,800-square-foot studio unit with 1.5 baths available for $6,000 a month. No one answered the listed telephone number, which had an Albany, N.Y., exchange. The voicemail was full around 10:50 a.m.

The Boston Fire Department and Inspectional Services Department found potentially life-threatening violations at 37-39 Geneva St., originally built as a parking and car repair garage.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

According to city assessing records, the property is owned by Solskinn Properties LLC whose corporate records list Daigneault as its manager. Daigneault is also listed as the manager for BlueSkyRealty.Com LLC, which lists the commercial property for rent at $6,000 a month, according to city records.

Daigneault identified himself as a self-employed computer consultant last year when he used the Everett Street address to make a $1,000 donation to State Representative Jeffrey Turco, a Democrat who represents the 19th Suffolk District, according to state records.

Daigneault has a history in the East Boston neighborhood. Lisa Timberlake, an ISD spokeswoman, said Daigneault owned an apartment building on Maverick Street when it partially collapsed in 2015, displacing 20 people. There were no reported injuries but the building had to be evacuated.

Lydia Edwards, a Boston city councilor and state senator who represents East Boston, said a “garage with 20 beds is very dangerous.” She said she could not believe such an apartment was “the best we can do” to house flight attendants.

Boston Inspectional Services’s Investigative & Enforcement Team condemned a garage turned into an illegal two-bedroom unit.Boston Inspectional Services

“I think it’s a lack of innovation,” she said. She said airlines, the Massachusetts Port Authority, and the city should work together to create housing that flight attendants can use between shifts.

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“It’s industry-specific,” she said. “It’s a very necessary, very real need.”

Gabriela Cartagena, a community organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana, a tenants rights advocacy group, said the unpermitted apartment was another “red flag” that more affordable housing is needed in the city.

Overcrowded conditions occur when “the rent is too damn high,” said Cartagena, who supports rent control in Boston and across Massachusetts. She wanted to know what happened to the people who were staying at the apartment when it was shut down.

“This is just further proof as to how the city of Boston needs to invest more money into creating more truly affordable homes,” she said.

Timberlake said a woman living at the property called the fire department earlier this week because an electrical panel appeared to be malfunctioning. Firefighters made sure the panel was not a safety risk and alerted ISD, which is responsible for enforcing state sanitation and building codes in the city.

On Tuesday, inspectors found that the garage’s second floor had been converted to two residential quarters, while the first floor was being used to improperly store flammable materials, including gasoline, officials said.



John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @matt_yan12. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.