The Tragic Fire in the Bronx: Who is Responsible?

From a Red Phoenix Contributor in New York City

As has been in the news regularly in New York, and probably also in the rest of the country, on Sunday, January 9, a fire in the Bronx killed 17 people, including 8 children. The majority of those killed, as well as others who are still hospitalized from smoke inhalation, were immigrants from Gambia in west Africa.

The fire department has determined that the cause of the fire was a faulty space heater. Also, the fire spread so rapidly throughout the building because the mechanism for apartment doors to close automatically was not functioning, allowing smoke to spread rapidly through the building. This is undoubtedly true. But one question the bourgeois media passes over is simple: Why was a space heater needed? Clearly, because the heat was insufficient!

New York City has some of the most specific heat regulations of any major city in the U.S. According to these regulations, from October through May, between 6 AM and 10 PM, when the temperature outside falls below 55°, the inside temperature must be maintained at 68°, and between 10 PM and 6 AM, the inside temperature must be at least 62° regardless of outside temperature. These regulations are very good, but they only make sense if they are enforced. Although the City claims that previous complaints for heat violations were closed, this can simply mean that the tenants did not continue to re-report the violations.

I myself had to file numerous complaints about heat violations in my building. The process is fairly simple. One goes to the New York City web-site and fills out a complaint of a heat violation (if one does not have internet access one can put through the complaint by telephone). But what happens then? Does the City initiate any action against the landlord? No—if you’re lucky, the City will check back with the tenant to see if the violation has been fixed, and if not they will wait a few days and ask again. Eventually, an inspector will come to check the condition in the building, and if it verifies it, it will note it as a violation.

If the case finally comes to court (a process that can take months), the tenant can bring witnesses. In one case in which I was involved, four tenants in our building of 20 apartments appeared in court. The judge simply asked the landlord’s lawyer whether he would provide sufficient heat, and after the lawyer contacted the landlord he finally signed a meaningless statement saying that he would provide heat as required by law. That was the end of it – no fine, not even an acknowledgement that the landlord had violated the heat regulations!

This should make it clear: one can have all the regulations one wants, which look beautiful on paper, but if there is no efficient method to enforce these regulations (including heavy fines to the landlord), these regulations are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Mayors Depend on Financing from Landlords

Of course, the mayors in New York (and other major cities) generally have strong ties to the real estate industry, which provides large campaign contributions. Former Mayor de Blasio won his initial victory based on his description of New York as a “tale of two cities,” but ended up in bed with the real estate industry. New Mayor Eric Adams (a former police captain) never claimed to be a “progressive.” One of the people on his transition team for housing issues is Rick Gropper, owner of Camber Property Group, which is actually one of the owners of the building in the Bronx.

Only an organized tenant movement can force the City to enforce its regulations with teeth. And of course, only a socialist revolution, which would take all large residential and commercial buildings from private owners and transfer them to the socialist state, the organ of the dictatorship of the proletariat, can finally solve the problem of gentrification and provide housing at low cost to working people!

Categories: U.S. News

%d bloggers like this: