Cypress Hills landlord who allegedly set fire to building charged with arson, attempted murder: DA

Brooklyn landlord indicted on arson charges
A Cypress Hills landlord has been indicted on charges of attempted murder and arson after he allegedly set fire to an apartment building with tenants inside.
File photo courtesy of Ajay Suresh/Wikimedia Commons

A Brooklyn landlord has been charged after he allegedly set fire to a Cypress Hill rental property he owned with a family of eight tenants inside the building, including six children, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on Thursday.

Rafiqul Islam of Bedford-Stuyvesant was arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 59-count indictment with charges including first- and second-degree attempted murder, first- and second-degree attempted assault, third- and fourth-degree arson, first- and second-degree reckless endangerment, and endangering the welfare of a child.

“This defendant allegedly set fire to an occupied home, forcing an entire family, including six small children, to climb onto the roof and escape from the blaze in fear of their lives,” said Gonzalez in a statement. “It’s a miracle no one was killed or more seriously hurt. We will now seek to hold the defendant accountable for this allegedly deliberate and unconscionable act of arson.”

According to the district attorney’s office, the residence in question — a two-story, two-family home in Cyprus Hills — also violated a DOB mandate requiring a fire escape and state legislation requiring multiple points of egress in residential buildings.  

cypress hills fire
The building (at center) allegedly violated city and state fire safety mandates. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Before the fire, Islam was allegedly angry that the tenants had stopped making rent payments and refused to move out of the building, and had threatened to turn of the family’s electricity and set fire to the building. 

The fire started early on the morning of Sept. 16, when tenants on the second floor of the 212 Forbell St. residence noticed a burning smell and smoke rising from the stairwell, which happened to be the only way to exit the building. 

The fire quickly spread and forced the entire family – including their six children, ages 1 to 8, to climb out the back window and onto the roof of the building.

From there, two adult tenants were successfully able to drop the children 20 feet down from the roof into the arms of their neighbors who were waiting on the ground to catch the children.  The adults were then able to jump off the roof to the ground before calling 911.

Video surveillance footage obtained by the FDNY after the fire reportedly showed Islam entering the wearing a face mask and armed with a bucket and garbage bag, with additional surveillance allegedly depicting the defendant leaving the scene of the crime before the tenants had made their 911 call.

Islam was arrested on Oct. 25, and was ordered to be held without bail. He is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 31, 2024 and faces a prison sentence up to 25 years if convicted.