Somber Press Conference About DBP Fire Turns into Mud-Slinging Fest

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Dayton Beach Park (DBP) is back in the spotlight, as this past Friday, January 12, a tragic fire at 8800 Shore Front Parkway, resulted in the death of 91-year-old resident, Ethel Davis, sent several residents and first responders to the hospital, and displaced six families from their homes.

In response, early Sunday morning on January 14, Rockaway’s local electeds, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, together with NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer held a press conference calling out the NYC Housing Preservation Department (HPD) for their lack of oversight in providing annual inspections within the Mitchell-Lama Housing Development Co-op incorporating DBP buildings, 8100, 8200, 8400, 8600 and 8800 all on Shore Front Parkway.

As a crowd gathered in the freezing cold at the press conference on Shore Front Parkway across from 8800, the atmosphere was splintered by divisive protests with DBP board members and devastated residents. When Assemblywoman Amato was speaking, congratulating the NYPD and FDNY first responders for their hard work, and stating DBP’s board of directors and management needed “to be held accountable” for the fire that “could have been avoided” because apartment inspections hadn’t been conducted in years, a woman identified as DBP board secretary, Elizabeth Koffer, started shouting, “You are disgusting. Shame on you Stacey! How dare you accuse the board for this?”

As the rabble-rousing continued, Senator Addabbo stepped up and said, “It’s about time, we stop reacting, and start preventing. I proudly stand with my Assemblywoman, and I’m determined to make sure we move forward as one collective voice. I support Stacey proudly, and so does the community.”

When The Rockaway Times contacted HPD as to what was amiss with the apartment inspections, this was their spokesperson’s official response: “HPD takes its oversight of Mitchell-Lama developments extremely seriously. This fire was a terrible tragedy and our heart goes out to the family of the woman who lost her life. Inspections are important for the health and safety of tenants in all buildings, and at DBP, the new management company had sent out notices of inspection, slated to start today, prior to the fire. As to HPD’s oversight, residents in all Mitchell Lama Co-ops elect a board to oversee the management of the coop. The board is responsible for complying with all HPD rules and regulations. HPD works with co-op boards and management companies to make sure buildings are run in compliance with HPD rules/regulations.

According to HPD, inspections at DBP were last done in 2015. At that time, the inspection was refused in the apartment, where the fire started. The building (8800) was out of compliance with HPD inspection rules, which require annual inspections.

 HPD added that “the board was aware they were out of compliance and brought on a new management company to get back into compliance and improve overall conditions at the coop. Inspections by the new management company have already been scheduled to begin on Tuesday, January 16. At HPD's instruction, restarting the annual inspection process was a top priority for the new management company.” The inspections, which did start on Tuesday, were scheduled before the fire took place. Residents were given notices about the upcoming inspections on January 10, just two days before the fire. The notice said that the inspections would include, “looking at the condition of the apartments, smoke detectors, windows, electrical outlets, and general visual examination of all apartments from January 16 to January 24, 2018.”

 However the inspection would be a few days too late with an unexpected tragedy ensuing on January 12. HPD referred to a statement from the FDNY claiming that “a halogen lamp caused the fire, but extra items in the apartment did not have impact on the cause of the fire or the firefighting operations.”

 “While there is no indication that the occupant was a hoarder, hoarding is a health and safety violation and in extreme circumstances we have moved to evict people. We encourage buildings to work with tenants to resolve health situations first before resorting to eviction,” HPD said.

Meanwhile residents and board members and even some who live in the area but not in Dayton continue to squabble on Facebook, flinging accusations and insults.

HPD, as of press time, still has not completed their audit of the list of voting shareholders for DBP’s still pending board of directors’ election.

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