A Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst landlord was arrested on March 26 after multiple search warrants showed he had crammed nearly 50 individuals, including children under the age of 12, into converted homes and garages, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
The Red Cross relocated 46 people citing fire hazards, illegal construction and unauthorized gas lines. The illegal spaces at 48-14 94 St., 35-39 92 St., 35-41 92 St. and 40-33 Forley St. were being rented for $850 to $1,400 a month, Brown said.
“In addition to putting a strain on city services, such as parking, transportation, waste disposal and schools, illegal conversions endanger the lives of building residents as well as firefighters and other personnel who in responding to an emergency are confronted by a maze of rooms with no way out,” Brown said.
Segundo Chimbay, 48, was charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, second-degree reckless endangerment and violation of the New York City Administrative Code for failing to comply with an order to vacate. If convicted, Chimbay faces up to seven years in prison.
Chimbay is named in a $1.6 million civil asset forfeiture action, which includes more than $600,000 in fines for allegedly failing to comply with prior vacate orders resulting from building code violations. Liens have also been placed on the four properties in the two neighborhoods.
A recent audit conducted by Comptroller John Liu showed that enforcement officers gained entry to buildings only 20 percent of the time since access requires a warrant or the owner’s permission. However, Liu said that although this does hamper inspections, the Buildings Department should more actively gain warrants for residences where the inspector has been denied multiple times.
In January 2005 a labyrinth of rooms trapped six firefighters in a burning Bronx building. Unable to find their way through the illegally converted residence, the firefighters jumped from a fourth-story window. Two men were killed and the others injured in the incident, known as The Black Sunday Fire.