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Police Lock Down Fire-Ravaged Inwood Building After Reports of Looting

By Carla Zanoni | August 31, 2012 12:55pm

INWOOD — Police have shut down construction on an Inwood apartment building that was ravaged by fire earlier this month, saying they recieved reports of looting in the building, sources said.

Sources said police got a report of a looted apartment in the six-story building at 639 West 207th St. and requested that the building's management company not allow anyone to enter the building unsupervised while a Department of Buildings vacate order remained in place.

According to law enforcement sources, an investigation into the looting report would be difficult to investigate because of the volume of people that were allowed in and out of the building following the fire.

A vacate order remained on the building Friday, close to two weeks after the Aug. 18 blaze tore through a one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor and damaged the stairwell from the ground floor to the rooftop, according to the DOB.

An FDNY spokesman said they determined the cause of the Aug. 18 blaze was "juvenile fire play" but would not elaborate. They also added that the fire spread to the roof because a door was left open when a tenant attempted to flee, causing flames and smoke to rise to the sixth floor.

Thirteen families were left homeless by the blaze, and many residents say they're still struggling to find alternate housing.

A lawyer for Pinnacle Management, which owns of the building, said it will take approximately two months to repair the building before tenants can be allowed to return.

Pinnacle Management lawyer Ken Fisher confirmed that one apartment was left severely damaged and other apartments were affected by smoke. The hallway and stairwells were also damaged in the fire.

"The owner has hired a contractor and started work on the building," Fisher said. "They want to try to get the tenants into the building as soon as possible."

But residents said they've been given no assistance from Pinnacle to find a place to stay in the meantime.

Stephanie Greene, a resident at the Inwood building, said she and her boyfriend were given accomodations by the Red Cross for two days after the fire, but that in the time since she's been staying at a relative's house, while her boyfriend has been living in a shelter. 

"I cannot be here for a month and my boyfriend cannot be at a shelter for a month," said Greene. 

The Red Cross, who was on site during the fire rescue, said that while it provides immediate housing options to displaced residents, the organization's options are only short-term.

"We put them up in a local hotel," said Red Cross communications officer Michael de Vulpillieres. "Our housing just lasts a couple of days."

He added that the volunteer-led organization refers them to the NYC Housing Preservation Department, which he said is responsible for long-term alternative housing options.

According to an HPD spokesman, families must register with the department in order to utilize shelter, housing services and case-manager assistance.

As of Thursday, only three households from 639 W. 207th St. had come forward for assistance. The department asked that interested families apply for assistance at 100 Gold St., near Pace University, in order to register.

Representatives from City Councilman Robert Jackson's office, who were also present to assist families after the fire, said that they encouraged residents to reach out to them for help.

So far, only one family has contacted his office.

"That's my concern," said Juan Rosa, community affairs director for Jackson. "Residents are not reaching out to who they need to be reaching out to."