Neighbor: 'It Feels Like You're In Prison; It Feels As Though We're Captive'

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Residents of a Central Park West building say the air in their apartments is making them sick and that the city has ignored their pleas for help.

They claim that smoke relentlessly pours in from a chimney atop the Astor On The Park hotel. Residents say the chimney is too close to their building and that the problem has been going on for eight years.

“It feels like you’re in prison; it feels as though we’re captive,” resident Linda Kagan told CBS 2 investigative reporter Tamara Leitner.

Others equated the situation to being poisoned.

“In effect what is happening is that our family is being poisoned,” Sam Sidi said.

The city’s Department of Buildings agrees. It said that the chimney was built without a permit and that numerous written violations have not sparked any kind of change.

“It’s a bureaucracy, it’s a black hole,” resident Larry Lytton said. “At best it moves at glacial speed, maybe it doesn’t move at all.”

Lawmakers are mystified by the lack of action.

“I don’t understand how the buildings commissioner keeps his job. I don’t understand how the mayor who prides himself on the efficiency of government that he has created can tolerate this, and yet he has, year in and year out,” said state Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell.

Since CBS 2 began its investigation the hotel has installed a cap designed to angle fumes away from the building. The Buildings Department refused to be interviewed on camera, but issued the following statement:

“The new vent is expected to reduce the output of combustion gas. Our inspectors are planning a follow up inspection,” it said.

Residents said the new vent is a bust, and at least one hotel owner agreed.

“The contraption, I don’t think it’s working. It’s still sending smoke into the building,” John Angelo said.

Neighbors are waiting for the city to get serious. They want the city to start enforcing its own codes.

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