NYC Apartments Where Most Residents Drowned Were Illegally Converted

  • 13 people died from Wednesday’s floods in New York City. 
  • At least 11 lived in illegally converted basement or cellar apartments, The New York Times reported 
  • Officials said 4 buildings in Queens and one in Brooklyn where people died were illegally converted. 

Most of the homes where residents died during flooding in New York City were illegally converted apartments, CNN reported. 

New York City’s Department of Buildings said five of the six houses where residents died as a result of Wednesday’s floods were illegally converted. Four of the houses were in Queens and one was in Brooklyn. 

The New York Times reported that at least 11 of the 13 people found dead in the city were in the illegally converted basement or cellar apartments. 

A 2-year-old and his parents were some of the victims found in a converted apartment, CNN reported.

“We know the basement apartments create a whole set of particular challenges,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a Friday briefing. “We are now going to be speaking — going forward — to people who live in basement apartments, specific messages, specific cell phone alerts, telling people about the vulnerabilities they face in these kinds of rain events.”

As a result of the destruction from the flooding, de Blasio announced that he’s starting a new alert system to inform residents in basements of incoming storms to help them better evacuate. 

After making landfall near Louisiana earlier this week, Ida moved up to cause extensive flooding and destruction through the northeast on Wednesday. Videos from New York and New Jersey showed people wading through flooded streets or homes where the water was waist-high. 

It’s illegal to alter buildings or build extra rooms or units without approval from DOB, but these units are still popular since they tend to be cheaper, the Times reported. However, DOB says these units pose “serious safety risks to tenants.”

Annetta Seecharran, executive director of Chhaya Community Development Corporation, a housing advocacy group, told CNN it’s usually people who can’t afford more expensive rent prices that live in these converted units. 

“They’re often the most vulnerable, vulnerable New Yorkers,” Seecharran said. “They are often immigrant families … It could be an elderly family member.”

The Times reported there have been over 8,000 reports of potentially illegal converted homes so far this year. 

New York City’s Department of Buildings did not respond to Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication. 

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