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Marijuana Lab Discovered at Inwood Building Torched by Fire

By Carla Zanoni | December 10, 2010 12:32pm | Updated on December 10, 2010 3:54pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — A sophisticated marijuana lab was discovered by firefighters investigating a fast-moving blaze that tore through a six-story apartment building Thursday morning.

Homegrown plants amounting to an "aggregate weight of several pounds of marijuana" were recovered in an apartment at 510 West 218th St., according to 34th Precinct Capt. Jose Navarro. The fire  killed two pets and left dozens of families homeless.

"During the fire rescue operations, an apartment used to grow marijuana plants was discovered," Navarro said in an e-mail. He added that the apartment was unfurnished "with the exception of a sophisticated array of ventilation, automatic room temperature control and power source equipment."

The discovery triggered an investigation by the 34th Precinct and the NYPD Narcotics Division, Navarro said.

Fire officials said the marijuana lab did not cause the fire. It was caused by an accidental electrical malfunction in the building.

Affected residents were still homeless Friday night. A spokesman for City Councliman Robert Jackson said they wouldn't be allowed back into their apartments until the Department of Housing Preservation determines that they're safe.

Neighbors said they were not surprised to hear about the lab.

"This is a quiet section of Inwood," resident Marianna Suerte said. "It makes it the perfect place to grow drugs and not get too many questions."

A 25-year resident of the neighborhood who did not want to be identified said she was also not surprised to hear about the discovery. Although the neighborhood has drastically changed from its drug and gang heyday during the 80s and early 90s, she said there are still pockets of concern.

"There are a lot of shenanigans going on in this building," she said. "You see some pretty unsavory people coming in and out."

A resident of the building, who also asked that his name be withheld out of safety concerns, agreed.

"Am I surprised there was a marijuana lab here?" he asked. "Of course not. There's weed everywhere in Inwood."