Inspectors cited Bronx high-rise for failing to maintain self-closing doors SIX TIMES over seven years before blaze killed 17: Owner of apartment where fire broke out says it got stuck when he saved his daughter and caused smoke to spread
- City inspectors cited the Bronx high-rise where an inferno left 17 people dead and dozens wounded at least six times between 2013 and 2019 for failing to maintain self-closing doors in the complex
- FDNY experts believe toxic smoke spread throughout the complex after the entry door to the unit where the fire broke out failed to automatically close, as it should have, when the residents were fleeing
- Mamadou Wague, who lived in the unit with his family, said the doors would get stuck if pushed open to far
- He also believed it had been shut when his family made their escape
- Fire investigators tested most of the doors in the building on Sunday and found a handful of other units had doors that did not close automatically, as designed
- A building spokesperson also noted the citations were issued under previous ownership
City inspectors cited the Bronx high-rise where an inferno left 17 people dead and dozens wounded at least six times for failing to maintain self-closing doors in the complex.
The door citations were issued to 333 East 181st Street management between 2013 and 2019, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) records obtained by the New York Post revealed.
Mamadou Wague, who rushed to flee with his wife and eight kids after a fire broke out in his duplex apartment on Sunday, said the doors in his unit – which are designed to close automatically – get stuck if pushed open too far.
‘When you push the door all the way to the edge, it didn’t close by itself,’ the West African immigrant father-of-eight told the Post.
‘I actually thought later that the door had shut, but the fire department people told me it had stayed open.’
Investigators believe the fire was started by one of several space heaters in Wague’s unit after it was left running uninterrupted for days.
Toxic smoke then spread throughout the complex after the apartment’s entry door failed to automatically close, as it should have, when the Wagues fled. The family all survived but another eight kids from inside the building, and nine adults, died.
Fire investigators tested most of the doors in the building on Sunday and found a handful of other units had doors that did not close automatically, as designed. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro claimed a door in the stairwell – which is meant to be used as an emergency exit – also failed to close, furthering the problem.
‘The stairwell was very dangerous as the door was left open and some of the floors — certainly on 15 — the door was open from the stairs to the hall and the 15th floor became quite untenable,’ Nigro said.
A spokesperson for the owners told DailyMail.com the building currently has no open door-related complaints or violations.
Fire experts found several faulty self-closing doors in a Bronx apartment complex where a fire left 17 dead on Sunday. Investigators also believe the building’s older fire safety measures contributed to the spread of the fire
City inspectors cited the Bronx high-rise at least six times between 2013 and 2019 for failing to maintain self-closing doors in the complex. There was also a self-closing door complaint issued on Dec. 6, 2021
Records do, however, indicate the city issued six door-related citations to the building from 2013 to 2019, with two of violations specifically involving doors on the third and 15th floors.
A self-closing door at the third floor entrance to the building’s northern stairwell was flagged ineffective in March 2017, under the complex’s prior owners, and was not fixed until July 2020.
Also in March 2017, citations were issued for the self-closing doors in the trash compactor closets on the building’s third, sixth, 12th and 15th floors.
Records show the landlord fixed those violations by May 2017.
There was also a self-closing door complaint made in December 2021.
When asked about the HPD citations, a building spokesperson told DailyMail.com: ‘The current owners purchased the property in January 2020 so the violations you are were incurred by the prior owners.’
‘There are no open complaints or violations related to doors currently according to HPD records,’ they added.
Mamadou Wague (pictured), who rushed to flee with his wife and eight kids after a fire broke out in his duplex apartment on Sunday, said the doors in his unit – which are designed to close automatically – get stuck if pushed open too far
The fire at Twin Parks North West complex in the Bronx broke out in Unit 3N, where the nine-person Wague family resided. Their residence is pictured Monday, covered in ash and debris
The Wague family’s apartment is seen completely destroyed. Father Mamadou Wague said the blaze left his eight-year-old daughter trapped in her bedroom on a mattress engulfed in flames. He pulled his daughter out of the flames and managed to escape
The blaze is unit 3N was caused by a faulty space heater
The entire unit was damaged by the blaze
However, malfunctioning doors appears to be a common complaint by residents of 333 East 181st Street, formerly known as Twin Parks North West.
Cookie Dennis, a 72-year-old residing in a unit on the third floor, claimed her door hasn’t ever shut properly in the nearly three decades she has lived in the building.
‘My door doesn’t self-close and never has,’ Dennis told the Post.
‘I have lived here 27 years, and I don’t ever remember the door closing by itself, you have to close it yourself.’
Complex residents have also complained of faulty fire alarms, lack of heating, roach and mice infestation and no water. Some of the complaints were filed in December of 2021.
The building – which is owned by Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, a consortium of three property developers; The Camber Property Group, Belveron Partners and the LIHC Group – was purchased along with seven others in late 2019 as part of a $160million deal on affordable housing in the Bronx.
The consortium bought it for just shy of $25million – which values each of the 120 apartments inside at $206,000. The wider, $160million deal of 1,200
The tenants are all households earning 60 percent of area median income. A family or household of four in the building earns, for example, $72,000 and generally their rent will be less than a third of that annual income – less than $2,000 per month.
New York City’s worst fire disaster in more than 30 years that broke out on the second and third floor of a building at 333 East 181st Street in the Bronx has killed nine children and ten adults (pictured, people jump to safety from the burning building)
Workers in protective clothing are pictured outside the complex Tuesday
Workers are pictured Tuesday sweeping up debris outside 333 East 181st Street
Rick Gropper of the Camber Property Group (left) is one of the owners of the building. He is also named as a contributor to Eric Adams’ housing transition team. The Camber Group partnered with LIHC Investment Group and Belveron Partners to buy the property in 2020. Belveron founder Paul Odland is shown, right
A spokesperson for the consortium would not confirm how much tenants pay in rent at 333 East 181st Street when contacted by DailyMail.com on Monday.
The developers paid a third less than the average sale price of homes in the Bronx, and a seventh of the average sale price of apartments in New York City when they bought the properties in 2019.
The owners charge tenants there less than the market rate for apartments in the area. They also receive subsidiaries from the local governments and enormous tax credits.
Andrew (left) and Charlie Gendron (right) of the LIHC group, the third investor
According to an announcement at the time they bought the properties, the developers said they intended to renovate.
It’s unclear if any renovations have yet begun.
The developers agreed to keep the properties within the city’s roster of affordable housing when they purchased them.
They said they would keep them affordable for the next 40 years at least.
One of The Camber Group’s founders is Rick Gropper, who was among hundreds listed as a contributor to new Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team in the housing department.
The others are Andrew and Charlie Gendron, of the LIHC Group, and Paul Odland of Belveron.
A spokesman for Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, the group of investors who own the building, told The New York Times that the fire alarm system in the building was working on Sunday and that there were no outstanding concerns.
‘We are devastated by the unimaginable loss of life caused by this profound tragedy.
‘We are cooperating fully with the Fire Department and other city agencies as they investigate its cause, and we are doing all we can to assist our residents.
‘Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured, and we are here to support them as we recover from this horrific fire.’
FDNY investigators determined the fire was started after a space heater malfunctioned in a bedroom in Unit 3N. The heating unit – one of multiple in the residence – is believed to have been running uninterrupted for several days.
Wague recalled how his nine-person family fled the blaze: ‘I heard my kids screaming, “Fire! Fire!’ in their room.” I just got up and ran back there. I told them, “Everybody get out!” And everybody got out.’
The father made it downstairs to learn his eight-year-old daughter, Nafisha, was still in her bedroom.
‘I went back for my daughter,’ he told the Post. ‘I could only think about getting her out, getting her safe.’
‘I ran back up. There was fire everywhere, on the mattress, on my daughter. She had burns on her right side.’
The 47-year-old father pulled his screaming daughter from the burning bed, suffering burns to his lips and nose.
‘When there’s so much smoke and fire, all you can think is, “If I don’t get out of here, I will die,”‘ Wague explained. ‘I burned my face to get her out, and I didn’t even feel it until much later.’
Wague said Nafisha suffered burns but is alive. She and his wife remained hospitalized Monday. Their current conditions are unknown.
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