From the Daily News:
The Buildings, Fire and Housing Preservation departments have different missions that can work at cross purposes in the fight to eliminate deadly chopped-up apartments.
Records show that at times, all three agencies cross paths at the same building, yet somehow the suspected illegal apartments stay in place.
Since April 25, five people have died in two fires inside illegally divided buildings. Mayor Bloomberg ordered an internal review and the City Council plans a hearing next week.
A key issue is how aggressively different agencies combat this problem.
Firefighters who see evidence of illegal apartments while responding to emergencies can issue vacate orders - but only for fire-related violations such as blocked exits.
Housing inspectors responding to tenant complaints about bad conditions can cite landlords for operating illegal apartments, but their only weapon is a paltry fine that property owners often ignore.
Fire and Housing often turn to the agency with the most flexibility in shutting down illegal apartments — the Buildings Department.
But records show that building inspectors often fail to take action against illegal apartments red-flagged by Fire or Housing inspectors.