MANHATTAN — A homeless man snuck into a Kips Bay apartment building and filled the hallway with smoke when he began igniting pieces of paper on the floor, telling police he did it to stay warm, authorities said.
Timothy Praulch, 35, was laying in the unlocked vestibule of 365 Third Ave., between 26th and 27th streets roughly 10 p.m. on Jan. 10 when he began lighting paper on fire, according to police and the owner of the building, who asked to be identified as Mark.
Workers in a neighboring pizza restaurant investigated the smell of smoke, and when they found Praulch laying in the vestibule, they tried to get him to leave, but he refused and continued to lay there, Mark said.
"The smoke was coming in through the walls," said the manager of Nick's Pizza Bar, who only gave his first name as Louie.
Shortly after that, when a resident buzzed a deliveryman into the building, Praulch managed to keep the door open and walked up to the fifth floor, where he again began lighting paper on fire, according to the landlord and officials.
Police responding to a 911 call at 10:43 p.m. found the hallway filled with smoke, saw burnt paper in the vestibule and on the second floor, and found Praulch on the fifth floor, officials said. When confronted, Praulch allegedly told police, “I was just trying to keep warm. I’m homeless.”
Lacking an accelerant, the paper fires on the vinyl tile floor did not do much harm to the building or its residents, said the relieved landlord.
“Thankfully there was very little damage, but it could have been a disaster,” he said. “Luckily for the tenants and residents we didn’t have a major problem.”
Prosecutors charged Praulch with four counts of trespassing and one count of reckless endangerment, and a judge ordered him held on $1,000 bail pending his next court date on Feb. 4, according to court records.
His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.