Updated 06/05/2012 09:34 AM
Bronx Tenants Ordered To Vacate Building Without Fire Escapes
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Dozens of families were ordered Monday to vacate their building in the University Heights section of the Bronx by Tuesday evening, after a construction company removed all the structure's fire escapes.
About 200 people were told that they will have to leave the 75-unit, six-story building at 2400 Webb Avenue by 6 p.m. Tuesday, after the New York City Fire Department and Department of Buildings determined that the illegally removed fire escapes created unsafe conditions.
An inspector from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development first noticed the absence of fire escapes on Saturday.
Fire officials also said the building has no working sprinkler system and tenants told NY1 they knew that was a problem.
Since Saturday there were licensed fire guards sitting in the building, keeping watch in case of fire, but fire officials said that was a temporary solution that cannot replace the vacate order.
"It's something that we don't take upon lightly," said FDNY Deputy Chief Jay Jonas. "We explored other possible options and none of them we could really live with."
The FDNY and several agencies met with the owners of building, Goldfarb Properties, and fire officials said the company was cooperative and will give tenants an $840 check to pay for a week-long hotel stay.
Goldfarb Properties also promised to pay hotel costs for all the tenants while the situation still lasts, according to city officials.
Nevertheless, tenants were shocked to learn they had to suddenly leave their homes and most of their possessions behind.
"I'm very upset. You know what, I've been here 14 years and I have nowhere else to go. I work every day. It's just hard. But what can you do? It's for our own safety," said one tenant.
"It's a big inconvenience for me. It's a big stress for me," said another.
According to city officials, Goldfarb Properties says the owners were incorrectly advised that they could remove the fire escapes as part of a renovation.
The owners will also let tenants get their rents back for the month of June, and they may pay for tenants' food and transportation costs, based on receipts.
It could take more than a month to replace the fire escapes and reopen the building, according to fire officials.