BROOKLYN — A small community in Bedford-Stuyvesant Monday mourned a beloved Navy veteran who was killed in a raging fire in his Jefferson Avenue home, friends and officials said.
The 56-year-old man — whom DNAinfo.com New York is not identifying because police said they had not reached his family — died in a third-floor room at 343 Jefferson Ave. when the fire broke out Sunday just after 9 p.m.
Friends of the victim remembered him as being warm-hearted to adults and children alike.
"He loved my kids," said Carrie Collins, 35, who used to live in the building. "He was kind.
"If you need anything, he'd get it for you," she added. "He didn't bother nobody."
Fire marshals on Monday were investigating the cause of the fire. Police said they did not suspect foul play.
A spokesman for the U.S. Veterans Affairs said the man was a veteran and was receiving, or at one time received, veterans benefits. He could not release more information until relatives were notified of his death.
The man apparently lived alone in a single room in the building. Residents said his family had urged him to leave because of poor conditions there, including rats and bed bugs, among other hazards.
"It's not good for nobody to live here," Collins said.
His family could not be reached for comment.
The building, home to about a dozen residents, has received three complaints for illegal conversions since 2002, Department of Buildings records show. The latest complaint, filed in February 2011, was closed when an inspector was unable to gain access to the building.
A man who identified himself as the owner of the building said he was distressed over the fatal fire.
"It's a tragic situation," the man, who didn't give his name, said. "I'm stressed."
The Department of Buildings, meanwhile, issued a vacate order because of the stability of the building in the wake of the fire.
Residents were allowed to retrieve belongings from the building late Monday morning and they carried slightly charred bags and suitcases down the front stairs, littered with soot and bits of glass left from the night before. The American Red Cross was on scene to help residents with temporary relocation.
Beyond the issues with the building, residents Monday reminisced about their neighbor.
"[He] was a good dude," said Kenneth Matthews, 45, an artist who has lived in the neighborhood for 38 years.