And Now For Something Completely Not Different

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How many illegal conversion fire-deaths must occur before our city does something to resolve this decades-long problem?

We heard this week of another three deaths in Woodside, Queens, when a legal two-family home was converted into a five-family dwelling with single-room rentals occupying the basement and second floors. With many structures in Woodside made of wood, similar to those in Woodhaven, the situation is ripe for lost lives. Many of these homes were constructed fifty to one-hundred years ago when the most a family could plug in was a radio or a black and white television. Electric and heating services to these homes are often overburdened and rigged to cover these additional tenants.

The fact that more fires haven’t occurred is more amazing than when one does. My heart hurts for those who lost their lives and the families that lost loved ones. But for those who create these conditions for profit, shame on you! For those who place their families in this harms way, show your love for them by getting out before you become the next victim. Do not be an accomplice to this deadly behavior.

Affordable housing in New York City has been an issue since when the Dutch first landed here close to four-hundred years ago. But if you go back a mere one-hundred years ago communities were serviced by multiple volunteer fire companies. Woodhaven had three in the late 1800’s when our population was a fraction of what it is now. Yet today the city is still threatening to close Engine Companies in vulnerable neighborhoods like Woodhaven while not doing anything to tackle the issue of finding and eliminating these tinderbox illegal conversions.

I challenge our elected officials to hold our legal system and the Department of Buildings accountable for this deadly and political neglect. One more life is one life too many to loose because of this easily resolved issue. We just need to show some leadership now.

Vance B. Barbour
Woodhaven, New York

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