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Some Bronx Tenants Evacuated After Fire Escape Fiasco Allowed To Return Home

Angry Residents Still Taking Building Owner Goldfarb Properties To Court
Residents of 2400 Webb Avenue were ordered to vacate after the building's management company removed fire escapes as part of renovations. (credit: CBS 2)

Residents of 2400 Webb Avenue were ordered to vacate after the building’s management company removed fire escapes as part of renovations. (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Despite a new city order that allows some of them to return home, tenants at a Bronx apartment complex that had all of its fire escapes removed illegally, are still moving ahead with their court fight.

Some 200 residents of 2400 Webb Ave. in University Heights have launched a legal battle against their landlord to make sure work is done and completed in a timely manner so they can all return to their homes.

1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr With More On The Story

Wednesday night, people who live on the first floor, plus two second-floor apartments, were allowed back into their apartments for the first time since early June.

“I’m just glad to be home,” Frank Lyles told 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr.

Lyles said he had been staying in Brooklyn since the beginning of the month, when everyone in the building had to leave because the fire escapes were inexplicably removed.

“We really haven’t got any explanation to our satisfaction in terms of how could you just simply remove fire escapes from a building that was fully occupied,” Michael Staton told 1010 WINS’ Haerr.

The fire escapes are currently being replaced one floor at a time, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported.

“It feels good to be back in my apartment after three weeks,” Staton said.

It was also a great feeling for the Jimenez family, who went grocery shopping and planned to cook their first meal together since returning home.

“I missed my house,” said 9-year-old Nayari Jimenez.

Citing the lack of fire escapes, fire officials ordered the entire building to vacate on June 5.

The fire marshal closed the building to prevent any loss of life, while launching an investigation into how and why the building’s owner —  Goldfarb Properties — could justify removing such a vital means of escape.

Armed with petitions from more than half of the 72 impacted families, displaced tenant Staton filed a request for the Bronx County Housing Court to oversee renovations.

The families were forced to evacuate after an engineer filed improper permits for renovations at the building. The FDNY also found a number of other violations, including no firewall in the garage.

The city Department of Buildings is not only investigating the engineer’s work on Webb Avenue, but also his involvement in 48 other active projects in the city.

Goldfarb Properties owns the Bronx building, along with a network of city and suburban apartment houses in New York and New Jersey, including The Churchill in White Plains and Drake House and Harbor House in New Rochelle.

Despite a non-stop demand for answers from tenants and from CBS 2, Goldfarb executives have dodged all questions.

The tenants are now waiting for a hearing date to meet with Goldfarb and a judge to determine when new fire escapes must be finished. They’re still deciding whether they’ll file a civil lawsuit.