For Immediate Release:  December 05, 2017
CONTACT: dobcommunications@buildings.nyc.gov, (212) 393-2126


CITY AGENCIES WARN OF DANGEROUS ILLEGAL APARTMENTS

DOB And FDNY Raise Awareness about the Dangers of Illegally-Converted Living Spaces with Thousands of Flyers to Be Distributed Throughout the Five Boroughs

New York, NY – Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler and Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro announced the start of a citywide campaign to warn New Yorkers about the dangers of illegally-converted living spaces, such as basement apartments, that lack proper exits if a fire breaks out. For the next three weeks, the Departments will distribute thousands of flyers reminding both tenants and property owners of the potentially deadly consequences of illegal residential conversions.

As part of this effort, the agencies released a list of 10 dangers that New Yorkers should look out for when renting apartments.

“If you know what to look for, it’s easy to identify and avoid dangerous living spaces. The most common types of illegal apartments are basement and attic spaces that lack two exits, in case one exit gets blocked in a fire. That’s why this outreach campaign is so important. We and our partners at FDNY are committed to helping New Yorkers identify safe and legal housing for themselves and their families,” said Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler, PE.

“One of the critical missions of the FDNY is educating New Yorkers how to prevent fires and fire-related injuries and deaths,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “Our members are proud to once again take part in this important outreach campaign that will warn New Yorkers in neighborhoods across the city about the life-threatening dangers illegal conversions pose to residents and Firefighters.”

DOB’s Community Affairs Unit and FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit will distribute flyers in 10 different languages at major transportation hubs in areas across the city where DOB has identified high numbers of illegal conversions. This year, the agencies expanded their outreach, sending teams to more locations including:

  • Queens: Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue Station, Lefferts Boulevard Station, Flushing-Main Street Station, and Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue Station
  • Brooklyn: 53rd Street Station and Broadway Junction Station
  • Bronx: Gun Hill Road Station and Grand Concourse Station
  • Manhattan: Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Grand Street Station, and 168th Street Station

Illegal conversions are living spaces that have been altered to allow additional occupancy without DOB approval and have potentially unsafe conditions. These units often lack necessary exits in the event of an emergency, proper windows, and ventilation, and may have illegal and unsafe gas, electrical, and plumbing systems. These illegal spaces not only put residents in danger, but neighbors and first responders as well. 

The Living Safely awareness campaign was launched after three men lost their lives in a tragic fire in an illegal cellar apartment in Woodside, Queens, on November 7, 2009. As a part of this ongoing effort, Department inspectors and community liaisons have handed out flyers in neighborhoods throughout the city where the most illegal-conversion complaints are generated. Since 2009, more than 215,000 flyers have been provided to New Yorkers through the Living Safely campaign.

Flyers distributed in the Living Safely campaign have tips such as the need for at least two exits, working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and the dangers of using an extension cord as a main source of electricity. The flyers, which are produced in 10 different languages, are available on DOB’s website under Tenant Resources.

New Yorkers are encouraged to call 311 to report any non-compliant or unsafe construction conditions, including suspected illegal conversions. For more information, please visit the Department’s website at www.nyc.gov/buildings.

See below for photos of DOB and FDNY handing out flyers in Flushing-Main Street Station, Queens, and Grand Street Station, Manhattan. All photos courtesy of DOB.

Photos of DOB and FDNY handing out flyers in Flushing-Main Street Station, Queens, and Grand Street Station, Manhattan. All photos courtesy of DOB.

 

Photos of DOB and FDNY handing out flyers in Flushing-Main Street Station, Queens, and Grand Street Station, Manhattan. All photos courtesy of DOB.

 

Photos of DOB and FDNY handing out flyers in Flushing-Main Street Station, Queens, and Grand Street Station, Manhattan. All photos courtesy of DOB.