Monday, November 16, 2009

Reactions to deadly Woodside blaze

From the Village Voice:

This house, at 42-40 65th Street in Woodside, had been inspected twice by Buildings Department inspectors -- in 1990 and in 2004 -- in response to complaints that there were "extra rooms" in the basement. Inspectors did not find violations on either occasion...

The public has good reason to be skeptical of the inspectors' findings. From 2002 to the present, the city's Department of Investigations has arrested 37 Buildings Department employees on a variety of corruption charges (including bribe receiving, extortion, fraud, theft of government property, falsifying records and enterprise corruption) and 215 individuals who had fraudulent business dealings with the DOB. Earlier this fall, prosecutors arrested six people and accused the agency of being infiltrated by the mob.


From the Queens Gazette:

“All New Yorkers should pause and say a prayer for those who lost their lives in this horrible fire and for a speedy recovery for those injured,” City Councilmember Eric Gioia, in whose 26th Council District the fire occurred, said on November 8. “Once again, New York's lack of affordable housing has led to tragedy with families forced to cram themselves into dangerous illegal conversions and building owners willing to compromise safety for profit. Illegal conversions are dangerous, not only for tenants, but for firefighters who must fight blazes in buildings with unexpected barriers. To prevent tragedies like this from happening again, identifying illegal conversions and holding landlords accountable needs to be a priority for the city.”

Spoken like someone with a history of advocating for upzonings and developer tax breaks that have actually made NYC less affordable for the rest of us.

From the Queens Courier:

Illegal apartments, potential deathtraps like this one, exist all over Queens. Something must be done to discover them, report them and put the greedy landlords out of business before more innocent “tenants” die or firefighters perish fighting blazes in buildings like this one.

Perhaps the postal carriers could report multiple mail recipients at addresses that should only have one or two families. Maybe the water department could report a jump in the use of water at illegally-converted houses. Utility giant Con Edison, which meters gas and electricity use in these homes from year to year, could report sizeable jumps in usage at illegally-converted dwellings.

Neighbors could call in and report numerous “tenants” living next door or down the block.

Other agencies like the Fire Department, Police Department, Post Office and Sanitation Departments could help inspect suspected sites before the Buildings Department is called to issue its summons and close down the building by revoking its Certificate of Occupancy.

Until the city responds to this urgent problem, we urge you to report suspected illegally converted houses to Buildings Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri at Executive Offices, 280 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10007 or call the Building Department at 212-566-5000.

Let us declare war on illegal dwelling in our borough.

How about newspapers that run ads for illegal apartments with "gas and electric included" and houses with "full-finished" basements? Are you in favor of that as well? 'Cause you may want to take a look at the real estate section of your papers website...

From NY1:

Going forward, the borough president says she hopes to combat the number of illegally converted residences in Queens. "I reorganized my illegal conversion task force, that's what I've done. And I bring city agencies in; everybody's got to pitch in and help us with this."

You mean there was such a thing as an illegal conversion task force? What did they ever accomplish?


Anonymous said...

The y should check south richmond hill

Anonymous said...

I was offered a wonderful basement apartment where I was warned the door was too narrow for my furniture to be moved in and the stove had only two burners.

Oh, and by the way, the rent was $900.00 a month, it was in Queens and I would be expected to do the landlord's gardening and yard work for free too.

Anonymous said...

Laste year, my friend sold her house on 57 Avenue, behind the Rock Church, the man who eventually purchased it paced off the living room and dining area, then told her it was big enough, he needed space for at least five beds.

Anonymous said...

They should also check out 56 Drive between 61 Street and 59th Street there is a small detached brick home with a bunch of mailboxes and bells. Classic signs of an SRO.

Anonymous said...

Other agencies like the Fire Department, Police Department, Post Office and Sanitation Departments could help inspect suspected sites before the Buildings Department is called to issue its summons and close down the building by revoking its Certificate of Occupancy.

My letter carrier tell me that there is 5 different family names in addition to the owner of the single family next door to me. The Firefighters riding past this dwelling can instantly spot the illegal security bars of the former garage, now serving the entrance to the owners apartment in the 2 room basement which house 12 family members. The Sanitation Dept knows how dramatically the garbage has increase at a given house as they do more in less time since 4 years ago. They also know the streets are filthy because renters dont clean the sidewalks or curbs. The Police know the situation, because they respond to calls that invariably involve domestic disputes with folks who dont speak English and scared of authorities (illeagals).

A task force is a good idea and preferably an idea that is essential to public safety and citizen security in an age where terrorists from Gitmo will be tried in lower Manhattan and their accomplices will be hiding in houses such as the neighbors I spoke about.

georgetheatheist said...

Hey Gioia, why don't you jump into a can of tuna fish. Leave already!

Van Bramer is THE SAVIOR! Jimmy will fix all of this. Watch.

Anonymous said...

What I find amazing is that all of this new construction has actually worsened the problem. You would think with lots of new space on the market, rents would drop and people would be able to upgrade from marginal spaces to better.

In my case, the new landlord put violations in my building that never existed. I had to ask a rep who was helping me not to go too far in inquiring about the C of O for fear I would lose the roof over my head.

My situation went from legal to illegal and dangerous overnight without me ever moving and "improvements" by incompetent maniacs caused the problem.

georgetheatheist said...

You would think that the Fire Department would be in the forefront of closing these illegal hell holes.

Firefighters are at risk when they enter blazing infernos. It makes sense that they shut these operations down. Hand off this enforcement to the FDNY from the DOB. What sane firefighter would be then subject to bribery?

It's in their own self-interest.

Anonymous said...

"had to ask a rep who was helping me not to go too far in inquiring about the C of O for fear I would lose the roof over my head."

Why weren't you doing this yourself?

if the C of O is defective on a property you have hit the jackpot. "lose the roof over your head?" Not true!

no one in the premises should have been paying money/rent to the landlord at all if for example the C of O is for a one or two family dwelling and it has been converted into a boarding house. Defective C of O should strike terror in the heart of any slumlord.

then there is always calling 311 and getting violations on the record. and don't forget the DHCR.

Anonymous said...

I went to see an apt that turned out to be in a sub basement w/ NO windows, a steep stair from the kitchen. no egress in case of fire and no a/c.

there was a little 1/2 door between the subbasement & the landlord's basement. like a dog door. no privacy and no windows. $700 per month to share w/ a Mexican.

there's been another fire in Queens

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure a defective "C of O" is a jackpot for the tenant, at least not in a situation like mine.

My building has the same number of apartments it always had, but numerous dangerous conditions have been created including weakened floors, defective gas fixtures, defective plumbing and more.

What I have heard happens in cases like this is that everyone winds up in the homeless shelter.

Anonymous said...

went to see an apt that turned out to be in a sub basement w/ NO windows, a steep stair from the kitchen. no egress in case of fire and no a/c.

Hey, maybe Queens Civic Congress will take up the banner!


Might effect their 'access' even though yours is substandard. This stuff doesn't happen in Bayside so its not important.

Anonymous said...

I have continually reported all the illegal conversions (and there are many) on my street. The DOB inspectors try twice to gain access. If they can't after the second try, the file is closed! None of our elected officials care enough to change the rules and procedures.

Anonymous said...

The inspectors never came back to the former hellhole that I inhabited in RIdgewood. Thankfully I'm gone from there. The landlord owns several buildings, all illegally converted from 2 family to rooming houses. He did it to my place while I was there. No one in the building, except for me, would complain. The landlord mostly rents to crackheads, ex cons, illegal aliens. None of them wants to rat out the slumlord. I'm going to call in a complaint directly to liz crowley's office and see if that does any good.

Anonymous said...

stop your attempt to compare one community against another.that is counter productive.
i have lived in Bayside forty years.there are illegal conversions on every block. many absentee landlord properties are "dormitory apartments"

just key in a 11361 address on the and click: Browse the the house complaint numbers on the left. the illegal violation sites will appear,and the resolution. it will usually state,owner would not open door!!!!!!!!!the system is a failure and the queens politicians accept it. and you know why??????

Anonymous said...

What sane firefighter would be then subject to bribery?

It's in their own self-interest.

Let's not forget the "Deutsche Bank " a fire inspector was suppose to check the sprinkler line risers too and he did'nt and it killed those fire fighters. I know a construction worker started the fire cause they were smoking but if the inspector would've done his job instaed of taking a bribe then he would've seen the pipe was cut in the basement and the water would'nt make it upstairs. So I don't think that would work, they would take the bribe and anything they can get their hands on.

georgetheatheist said...

Forget the inspectors. Have the guys on the truck knocking on the doors.

Anonymous said...

Don't even bother calling Crowley's office, I've sent continuous emails, she would do shit!

Anonymous said...

Firefighters should be checking their local neighboorhood homes all day, instead of sitting on sofas watching porn and eating gourmet food that a firefighters has cooked for them. Bloomburg wants to cut the budget,so I think they should be working their entire shift not sitting around doing nothing.

QJohnnie said...

Firefighters already go out 3 days, soon to be 5 days, a week for building inspection, on top of training and drill assignments. And maybe when they find the time after all this, they respond to emergencies. For a few months now, these FD building inspections have been surreptitiously videotaped and audited, so most of the old nonsense you may have read about has stopped.

FF's do have an added incentive to perform substantive inspections, true. But there is a trade-off... if someone happens to call in a fire and your local units are on the other side of their response area inspecting a building? Hope you can hold your breath for an extra 2 or 3 minutes.

Firefighters currently do not make scheduled inspections of private dwellings or individual apartments. They can and do respond to complaints, but cannot gain entry without a resident's permission. In that respect, they're in the same boat as DOB and civilian Fire Prevention inspectors.

Patrick Sweeney said...

The people walking past 42-40 65th St. on Sunday had no idea that 3 died in that house only days ago. It's like it is already forgotten.

Also, none of the stories have mentioned that if you walk ten feet from the house in the direction of Queens Blvd, you can see Engine 292 and Rescue 4, just across Queens Blvd. There was no reason for their deaths.

pictures of the fire

Anonymous said...

The problem will change when the landlords get put in jail for doing illegal work.
Ever since the rules changed and owners are subject to monetary fines rather than arrest the problem exploded to what it is today.
By the way the house was inspected five years ago, alot can change day to day.