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Investigation: Inside The Bronx Fire Escapes Debacle

With Tenants Unsure Where They Will Live, CBS 2 Attempts To Get Answers
Residents of 2400 Webb Avenue will be ordered out temporarily after building management removed fire escapes as part of renovations. (credit: CBS 2)

Residents of 2400 Webb Avenue will be ordered out temporarily after building management removed fire escapes as part of renovations. (credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Many are scratching their heads wondering why a landlord would illegally remove fire escapes.

CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer set out on a mission Tuesday to track down the people responsible and has the inside story.

It’s the Bronx tale with a terrifying twist. It would seem that maintaining a working a fire escape is building owner 101, but the owners of the Bronx apartment house in question refused to say why they took their fire escapes down in the first place.

“Excuse me … I have to make a very important phone call,” Gary Adams of Goldfarb Properties told Kramer as he hurried by.

Adams apparently took a vow of silence and wouldn’t even give Kramer his name or occupation, but residents and security guards at 2400 Webb Ave. in the Bronx gave her the name — Gary Adams.

Adams represents Goldfarb Properties, the landlord who inexplicably and illegally took down the fire escapes in their building. Kramer chased him around the block trying to get answers.

Kramer: “Sir, all we’re trying to do is find out why it happened and how you’re going to try to help the tenants.”

Adams: “I don’t know anything about it.”

Kramer: “But you obviously do because you’re here.”

And Adams also knew where the backdoor of the building was.

Kramer: “Can you give me some answers, sir? Say one thing? Anything?”

And then Adams slammed the door.

CBS 2 has learned that the owners have no permit. The renovations were done illegally, according to City Hall. There were also a raft of other fire hazards, including no sprinklers in the garage and a missing firewall between the garage and the building.

However, it was the missing fire escapes that forced the FDNY to order all 75 apartments vacated.

Deputy Assistant Chief Kevin Butler said he was dumbfounded.

“Somebody made a huge error, a huge error in judgment,” Butler said.

The Fire Department was at a loss to explain how the building owners thought it was acceptable to leave the 200 tenants no protection in case of fire.

“Something was very wrong,” Butler said.

Tenants were livid.

“It’s almost like premeditated murder … if the fire escapes are off for three weeks and you know there are no fire escapes, and you know there are no sprinkler system or fire doors,” Toni Johnson told Kramer.

“You’re a mega millionaire. You have properties throughout the five boroughs and New Jersey. This is not the first time you’ve been around the block. You know what needs to be done in terms of the building code. You shouldn’t be playing with lives like that.”

“I don’t know what they’re thinking. It’s insane. In New York City you always need a fire escape,” Melitza Alma-Nojolo said.

Several tenants told Kramer they think the landlords removed the fire escapes to get the tenants out because they want to turn the buildings into condominiums.

There was no immediate word about whether fire escapes have been ordered and when they’ll be installed.

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