By Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The whiff of evil still lingers in a nondescript apartment off Hollywood’s Young Circle.
There, a second-floor walk-up in a doomed and crumbling building, is where terrorists Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi briefly shared lodgings before their Sept. 11, 2001, odyssey of destruction.
Now, the building on Jackson Street is facing the wrecking ball. The Florida city’s unhappy connection to the nation’s worst terrorist attack soon will be transformed into a parking lot and pool.
“I feel like no one will be upset about that, considering who used to be a tenant there,” says Bryan Grosman, the investor who recently bought the 13-unit, unnamed apartment building.
“It is one of life’s little treats to be able to demolish a property like that, where a monster used to reside,” Grosman said.
Now occupying Apartment 3A is Madelyn Karpowicz, 65, who shares the cluttered, two-room, $500-a-month unit with three cats. The walls are an unappealing brown, there is a makeshift kitchen, furniture haphazardly crowds the wood floor and a sheet serves as a curtain.
“It’s not the most beautiful apartment in the world,” Karpowicz concedes. “It looks like a hovel.”
Karpowicz knew of the unit’s previous tenants when she moved in seven months ago.
“At first it was a little disconcerting,” she says. “There were times when I said, ‘God, do I want to live in an apartment that was used by murderers?'”
Atta and al-Shehhi, pilots respectively of the first and second planes that crashed into the Twin Towers, occupied the corner apartment from May through June 2001. It was one of several South Florida locations where they lived, others being in Delray Beach and Coral Springs.
The 1962 building with an assessed value of $589,630 seems an appropriate refuge for someone on the underside of society. Beer cans nestle among unraked leaves, flypaper sags from doorways, laundry of dubious cleanliness drapes a wooden fence.
“It’s a dump,” pronounces Susie Spingola, 59, from the front stoop, beer and cigarette in hand.
“It’s the worst place I ever lived,” says Lynda Bush, in her 50s.
Bush only recently learned she’s walking in terrorist footprints. “I got the heebie jeebies,” she recalls.
“It creeped me out so bad I wanted to move out,” says her sister, Kim Cannon, 56. “I don’t know what they kept hidden there, explosives or guns or anything.”
Many residents exist on disability, and don’t know where they will live. They rail against the new landlord for their displacement.
Grosman bought the building in late December so he could put in a pool and parking for the spiffy new housing complex he owns next door. He notified tenants the building would be demolished in early February. If they agreed to leave by Jan. 31, they would be forgiven that month’s rent. All accepted, Grosman says.
The building can’t be saved. “It has many outstanding code violations and in my professional opinion and that of my architect’s, it’s unsafe for people to live in,” Grosman says.
Hollywood spokeswoman Raelin Storey says the address has been served with 55 code violations since 1999. Currently there are three violations pending: fire hazards and an overflowing Dumpster.
Last week, workers capped gas lines, a requirement before a demolition permit can be issued. It left the tenants without hot water, however, and the ability to cook. Grosman says it was a mistake he’ll work to rectify.
Former owner Frank LoRusso, of New Jersey, says he would not have bought the building in 2005 had he known the 9/11 terrorists once lived there.
“We didn’t want to have any part of that. We happened to have known a number of people who lost their lives on that day,” he says. “We had nothing but aggravation from the day we bought that place. It was like it was cursed.”