The city has filed a slew of violations against the owner of a Bensonhurst building where five people died during a raging fire.
Inspectors discovered last week that 2033 86th Street was illegally divided in such a way that when the January 30 fire broke out there was no way for some of the tenants to escape.
DOB officials said that they presented three violations against Vasilios Gerazounis and his company, 2035 86th Realty LLC, for “altering the occupancy of the second and third floors to accommodate more families than legally allowed, working without a permit to construct patricians on the second and third floors and for not providing two unobstructed means of egress on the second and third floors.”
Each violation comes with a $25,000 fine.
“The illegal subdivisions in this building should have never been built,” Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said in a statement. “Property owners must understand they have a responsibility to maintain their property in a safe manner, and an illegal conversion can put people’s lives in serious danger.”
“Putting a profit ahead of public safety is unacceptable,” he added.
A DOB spokesperson said that it was unclear when these subdivisions were made.
It’s being theorized that five of the 18 immigrants living above the sushi restaurant at the address died because they could not find a suitable escape after Daniel Ignacio allegedly set fire to a roll of toilet paper at the base of the stairs.
Ignacio, who has been charged with murder, said demons forced him to set the fire. A grand jury was mulling over his case as this paper went to press.
Gerazounis told reporters that he was not aware that the subdivisions were made in his building, which is currently empty. The damage wrought by the fire was so intense that the building was deemed unstable, said DOB officials, who implemented a vacate order after the blaze was doused.
Nearly three weeks later, survivors are still reeling from the blaze.
So are neighboring residents, so much so that City Councilmembers Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) and Domenic Recchia (D-Bensonhurst) are co-hosting a fire safety awareness seminar.
The seminar, set for February 24, will be held at P.S. 163, 1664 Benson Avenue, at 7 p.m. Smoke alarms and replacement batteries will be available for all who attend.
“The Bensonhurst fire should be a lesson – a painful and tragic lesson – to our neighborhood and its families,” Gentile said. “Every precaution should be taken to prevent the loss of lives that we saw that day, and this seminar is one way of giving residents the tools to safeguard themselves in the event of a fire.”
“The devastating fire in Bensonhurst is a painful reminder that we should always be thinking about fire safety,” added Recchia. “Awareness is the best tool for keeping our families safe.”
For more information, contact Gentile’s office at (718) 748-5200.