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Washington Heights Building Had History of Violations Before Fire

By Nigel Chiwaya | January 28, 2013 2:59pm

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A Washington Heights apartment building that caught fire Friday had dozens of unresolved violations, according to city documents.

The building, 564 W. 188th St., near St. Nicholas Avenue, has racked up 96 open violations from the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, including infractions for blocked windows, lead-based paint and locked fire escapes, over the past 20 years, documents show.

A three-alarm fire broke out in the building early in the morning of Jan. 25, injuring five people, including four firefighters.

Fire marshals later determined the blaze was caused by an overloaded extension cord that caught fire in a second-floor apartment. The extension cord, which fire marshals said was plugged into the only electrical outlet in the unit, was feeding a space heater, a refrigerator and a television, officials said.

The Department of Buildings also lists five additional open violations, including one from 2008 that required the building's management company — Bronx-based Langsam Property Services — to remove "fire-related materials" from the walls and ceiling of a third-floor apartment, the DOB's website said.

Calls to Langsam Property Services were not immediately returned.

Officials have not issued any violations to the building's owner since the fire, records show.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has called on the Department of Buildings to conduct a full investigation into the fire.

In a letter to DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri, Stringer wrote that "a cursory review of the facts suggests that there is much more that needs to be known about the causes of this fire, and whether more could have been done to prevent it."

The Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development did not immediately respond to requests for comment.