News: NYC Officials Respond to Deadly Bronx Fire
(Long Island, N.Y.) After a severe fire devastated a building in the East Tremont/Belmont section of the Bronx, authorities discovered that some of the tenants were living in illegal apartments. Three people were killed in the fire, including a twelve-year-old boy. The problem with illegal apartments has prompted New York City officials into action.
The fire occurred Monday on Prospect Avenue and one of the victims is believed to have been a thirty-six-year-old man. Reports have stated that all three of the victims are believed to have been related and were living in an apartment that didn't contain smoke alarms. Mayor Bloomberg announced that he will work with New York City officials in coming up with new strategies to combat the longtime issue of illegal apartments.
Though the mayor claimed that the city has taken steps to limit the amount of illegal apartments, it has also fallen short of accomplishing its goals. Part of the issue is that property owners are willing to place profits over the lives of their tenants, allowing them to be subjected to dangerous living conditions. Reports stated that at least five complaints were made about the Belmont building concerning illegal apartments that contained faulty wiring and blocked exits.
According to some sources, the building had been visited ten times by inspectors who were unable to enter the building. After arriving on the scene, more than a hundred firefighters helped extinguish the flames. Firefighters also helped to vacate a floor of the building, but could not determine whether tenants returned to their homes.
The New York City Council has planned to hold a hearing in June to discuss the city's response to illegal apartments. Reports claimed that some city council members have accused the mayor of opposing legislation that would allow inspectors to have more power in prosecuting corrupt property owners. It's believed that the mayor doesn't think the legislation will stand in court.
Other proposed legislation included the ability to cite property owners for illegal apartments based on circumstantial indicators like having a disproportionate amount of mailboxes or doorbells in a building. The goal is to get easier access to warrants from inspectors, and one proposed legislation suggests obtaining warrants based on inspectors' affidavits.
The New York City Buildings Department estimated that it receives twenty thousand complaints of illegal apartments a year but can only investigate half. Nonetheless, officials have claimed that more cases are being prosecuted than ever before.
The Prospect Avenue fire, which tore apart the three-story brownstone, occurred at roughly three-thirty in the morning. Four other people were injured in addition to two firefighters, all of whom suffered from smoke inhalation. Firefighters believed that the fire began on the second floor of the building.
Some reports stated that neighbors of the building may have been displaced temporarily. Staff from the Red Cross offered assistance and was available to the building's neighbors. Firefighters have claimed that they arrived on the scene and responded quickly, but were unable to enter the building right away because of the extreme conditions of the flames. By the time they were capable of entering the building, it was too late for three of the building's tenants.
April 29, 2011 4:39 PM Eastern
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