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Gas Leak in Troubled Uptown Building Leaves 16 Residents Hospitalized: FDNY

By Carolina Pichardo | January 12, 2017 4:06pm
 The gas leak at 3852 10th Ave. in Inwood left 16 tenants hospitalized overnight, officials said.
The gas leak at 3852 10th Ave. in Inwood left 16 tenants hospitalized overnight, officials said.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

INWOOD — A gas leak at an Uptown apartment building sent 16 residents to the hospital over the weekend with stomach pains, headaches and nausea, in what tenants say is just the latest of traumatizing experiences they've had to deal with for years due to landlord neglect.

Residents at 3852-3856 10th Ave. have for years struggled with a severe roach, rat and bed bug infestation in their building, but now they're adding a gas leak that left them sick and with no hot water or heat to the list of reasons they can't sleep at night, they say.

Jessica Quirdumbay, 40, who lives in the building with her family, said she was home in the early afternoon of Jan. 7, when she started feeling dizzy and extremely tired, and noticed that her two children were falling asleep as well.

“I noticed that we were all so tired,” Quiridumbay told DNAinfo New York in Spanish, adding that she had rushed her 8-year-old son to the hospital a few days before because of vomiting and stomach pains.

"I don't know now if it was all connected [to the gas leak], but I think it was because it was all the same [symptoms]."

Then at about 1 p.m., firefighters arrived, started knocking on doors and evacuating tenants. Some residents had fainted by the time the FDNY arrived and firefighters had to break down their doors, Quiridumbay said.

Sixteen residents total were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, FDNY officials said, and the rest were evacuated.

“It was horrible,” Quiridumbay said. “We were standing outside for hours, not knowing what was going on. My 8-year-old was scared and kept asking if we were going to die.”

Residents were allowed back into their building the next day, but then the Department of Buildings issued a violation and shut down the building's boiler as a result of high carbon monoxide readings on Jan. 9, according to a spokesman for the agency — and tenants say they haven't had hot water or heat since.

There were gas leaks in the tubes and door gasket of the boiler, according to the DOB. And Con Ed spokesman Alfonso Quiroz confirmed that tenants were evacuated and the boiler was shut down due to high carbon monoxide readings.

“The owner will need to file an application for a work permit for the boiler in order to perform repairs,” said DOB spokesman Alex Schnell. “Once the repairs are completed, they will need to call DOB for an inspection, and we will determine whether it is safe to lift the cease use order.”

The city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development also issued the owner violations after its emergency response unit found that the heat and hot water was inadequate during a Jan. 9 inspection, according to an HPD spokeswoman.

Quiridumbay, a tenant leader in the building, said the incident left many residents traumatized, with some later telling her that they’re now unable to sleep well and don’t feel safe inside their homes. 

But this is just the latest in a list of concerns residents have had with their landlord, and the building's manager Kitty Huang, of Zeev Realty Co., Quiridumbay said.

Huang didn’t reply to several requests for comment.

“We’ve had problems with rats and roaches,” Quiridumbay said. “Some residents reported not being able to take showers, because the rats have destroyed their bathrooms and homes.”

Quiridumbay's own children have trouble sleeping at night because they can hear the roaches and rats, she said. Another resident once found rats in her bed, and has made it a habit to check her bed before getting in each night, Quiridumbay said.

Residents made complaints about the conditions to the building's management, but were ignored, and the management company remained silent even after the gas leak, Quiridumbay said.

Quiridumbay has reported ongoing issues to 311 and the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, but nothing has happened yet, she said.

"HPD is aware of the ongoing issues at this building and is in direct contact with the owner," said Juliet Pierre-Antoine, a spokeswoman for the agency. "We are making every effort to ensure the landlord is upholding his responsibility to keep tenants safe and maintain services to the building."

The lack of action from the landlord prompted Quiridumbay to reach out to local housing advocacy group Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), which has been working with her to organize tenants and to force the owner to fix problems.

“There are problems that have been constant over the years... constant patch work and repairs, the lack of heat and hot water," said Nancy Torres, tenant organizer of organizing and policy for UHAB. 

"We’re trying to build a case with the Legal Aid Society to figure out how we can get more accountability."

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez is holding a “Rally to Stand up to Slumlord” with Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa in front of 3852 10th Ave. on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.