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Public Advocate Investigating Operator of Shelter Where 2 Girls Died

By  Jeff Mays and James Fanelli | January 12, 2017 3:10pm 

 One-year-old Scylee Vayoh Ambrose and 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose were fatally burned by a radiator inside 720 Hunts Point Ave.
One-year-old Scylee Vayoh Ambrose and 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose were fatally burned by a radiator inside 720 Hunts Point Ave.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

BUSHWICK — Public Advocate Letitia James said that her office is investigating the nonprofit operator of the shelter apartment where two little girls were killed by the steam from a malfunctioning radiator.

DNAinfo New York has reported in a series of stories that the nonprofit Bushwick Economic Development Corp., or BEDCO, is a tax deadbeat that has been accused of bribing city workers, failing to fix violations at its city-funded shelters and falling deeply into debt with landlords.

DNAinfo also reported last month that the city's Department of Homeless Services ignored repeated warnings about the nonprofit over the past few years — long before 1-year-old Scylee Vayoh Ambrose and 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose were killed in one of its shelter apartments in The Bronx. 

"My office has already commenced an investigation into BEDCO following the tragic death of the Ambrose girls, and will be taking these allegations into account," James told DNAinfo regarding the tax liens and warnings sent to DHS.

DNAinfo reported Monday that the state Department of Taxation and Finance slapped BEDCO with $532,898 tax lien on Dec. 7, 2016, the same day the young girls were killed by scalding steam from a radiator in a cluster-site housing apartment.

Records show that BEDCO — which has gotten $116 million in contracts over the past 12 years from the city to operate shelters and cluster-site housing — failed to disclose tax liens over the years to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services.

City rules state that contractors who do not tell the truth on disclosure forms can lose contracts and possibly face criminal charges for false representation.

BEDCO operates shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Bronx. It also runs cluster-site housing, where city contractors lease individual apartments from a landlord to house homeless families.

In a 2015 report, the Department of Investigation said that cluster-site housing locations were poorly maintained. And in January last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to phase out cluster-site housing over the next three years.

When asked about BEDCO, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement to DNAinfo that the city needs to formulate a comprehensive plan to stop the homeless crisis affecting families and children.

“We, as a city, are defined by how we treat our children, and cluster sites are terrible options for families," he said.

"As our homeless crisis spirals out of control, with our most vulnerable children and families at risk, the city doesn’t have a game-plan. We need a comprehensive roadmap to solve this critical challenge, because we must do better for our children.”