A Brooklyn landlord and pastor was arraigned this week on charges stemming from his alleged role in the deadly fire that consumed the apartments he owned on Nov. 19, 2014.
Prosecutors alleged that the 78-year-old Haitian immigrant knew that his building was a tinder box awaiting a match and that the man had ignored numerous orders to vacate the building as well as code violations.
The blaze began with an electrical circuit that was overloaded and caught a water cooler on the second floor on fire. Smoke and flames erupted inside the apartment building while 20 tenants were sleeping. Three suffered serious burns, many were overcome with the effects of the smoke and one man died.
An assistant district attorney involved with the case stated that officials had "explained to the defendant why he could not subdivide the building and why it was dangerous," during walkthroughs of the Flatbush property with him that took place in 2001, 2004, 2005 and again in 2006. She also alleged that the owner was aware of the deteriorating and dangerous conditions since it was he that collected the monthly rent.
His supporters deny it was the pastor's fault, however, claiming that the tenants turned his apartments into illegally sublet rooms from which he could not evict them.
He was arraigned on charges that included criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. His bail was set at $1 million, with a bond of $2 million.
No matter how the adjudication of his criminal charges plays out in court, the survivors of the deceased man can file a wrongful death lawsuit, and those who were injured can seek damages from the civil courts of New York.
Source: New York Daily News, "Brooklyn pastor who owned apartment building where tenant died in 2014 fire knew his building was a cramped death trap," Joseph Stepansky and John Annese, July 28, 2016