NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Further devastation has followed the destruction that resulted from a fire last month in the Bronx.
As CBS’s Lisa Rozner reported exclusively, tenants said they were victimized twice – first by the flames and then by the looters who robbed them.
The building at 1547 Commonwealth Ave. in the Parkchester section of the Bronx has a guard house, and security is required to be there 24/7 to make sure no one trespasses. But still, trespassers did get in, and added insult to injury for the now-homeless families.
It was a lethal combination of fire and ice when the Commonwealth Avenue building was ravaged by a 7-alarm fire on Jan. 2. Now, the building has been ravaged by thieves.
“Stole my money, our jewelry, our wedding rings — everything that we worked hard for,” said Joseph Rodriguez. “It’s just water damage — so why is my stuff tossed like garbage? Why is anything touched in the first place?”
Rodriguez said his wife’s baby shower gifts were left missing too.
“They took all the baby stuff,” he said. “All they left in the drawer was socks.”
A television was taken right off its stand, and shelves that were once filled with expensive ornaments were left empty. Twelve families were evacuated on an arctic morning, and several weeks later, they were homeless and furious.
“One of my cotenants came in to find the urns of her son’s remains all astrewn,” said Johnny Cabrera.
The Department of Buildings lifted a vacate order for some of the apartments Friday — some areas are still not safe for tenants to enter, but in others tenants were able to return under building supervision. But it looks like no one supervised the tenants’ belongings, despite the DOB requiring the building to hire security.
“There was supposed to be security in front of the building and they walked out with my TV, so what was the security doing?” Rodriguez said.
CBS2 tried to call a man by the name of Tony at United Tremont LLC, which tenants say runs the building. The person who answered said Tony was not there and would not provide Tony’s last name.
“It took them almost eight weeks to allow us back into the building, giving the opportunity, thereby, there’s a fire escape around the corner that’s insecure that anyone could climb in,” Cabrera said.
Ownership of the building is still unclear.
The DOB told CBS2 the building owner has a responsibility to secure the building by hiring security or by boarding up any opening in the building.
The agency said it performs reinspections of vacated properties to ensure that no one is occupying the building, and that the property is properly sealed from the public.
It said the building was never cited by the Department for being open and unguarded to the public.
Meanwhile, residents have not been able to file police reports because they just returned this week to find out they were burglarized.