Government / News

New legislation introduced to monitor shelters

Caroline Aguirre

Neighbors hold a vigil for the Ambrose sisters in front of 720 Hunts Point Ave on Dec. 8.

In the aftermath of a tragedy that claimed the lives of two toddlers in a Hunts Point apartment that was being used as a shelter, four city council members and the Bronx borough president have collaborated to draw up a new law to keep an eye on landlords who try to cut corners.

On March 16 Councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr., and three other council members, along with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., introduced three bills in the council to prevent similar tragedies.

On the afternoon of December 7, 2016 Scylee Vayoh Ambrose and Ibanez Ambrose were burned to death when a valve blew off a radiator in their apartment at 720 Hunts Point Avenue and filled their bedroom with steam while their father slept and their mother was out on errands. It later came to light that the apartment was a cluster site, for which the city’s Department of Homeless Services was paying the landlord to house homeless families.

The landlord, Moshe Piller, was on the city’s list of 100 worst landlords in 2014 and 2015. In November, the Department of Buildings issued a class-one violation against the building but Piller avoided being placed on the 2016 list by working with the city’s housing department to correct violations.

The laws that Councilman Salamanca and his colleagues introduced are:

  • Intro 1489, which would require owners to install and maintain radiator covers.
  • Intro 1524, which would require the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to inspect radiators during any inspection related to health, safety, or the physical conditions of a homeless shelter.
  • Intro 1529, which would require DHS to report on how it plans to close cluster sites, or convert those units into permanent housing for homeless families or stand-alone shelters.

“Since this tragedy occurred, my colleagues and I have been working diligently to craft legislation that we believe will best ensure that a tragedy like we saw in my district a few months ago will never happen again,” said Salamanca.

“Just because a family is forced to spend time in cluster site housing does not mean they should have the same level of safety and cleanliness that anyone else would expect from their home.” said Diaz, Jr.

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