City to Step Up Inspections on Illegally Divided Buildings

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City officials are trying a new approach to building inspections following recent deadly fires in illegally subdivided buildings — including a deadly Bronx blaze that killed a 12-year-old boy and his parents in April.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Tuesday the city will target fire hazards in illegally converted buildings by looking more closely at previous complaints, foreclosure records and tax liens, the age of the buildings and whether other fires have occurred nearby.

These metrics will help city agencies identify on a weekly basis a list of illegal conversions at high risk for a fire, and the locations would be inspected within 48 hours by a team made up of Buildings Department inspectors as well as Fire Department personnel.

By following this model, the mayor said the city has been more successful than usual at gaining access to buildings, and in a pilot program last week, the city’s inspection teams gained access to all 16 apartments identified as high risk, and subsequently issued six vacate orders.

"What we wanted to see was whether having FDNY presence in uniform at the door would consistently make a difference in persuading occupants to let inspectors in," Bloomberg said. "At least in this test, apparently it did. And it's now going to be standard operating procedure for the task force going forward."

The announcement Tuesday came ahead of a City Council hearing to examine illegal residential conversions and access for building inspections.