It was one of those newspaper stories about a fire that riveted one’s attention. “A mother and father died in a fire early yesterday morning in Brooklyn as they desperately squeezed their four children under a window gate!” reported the New York Times.
While press attention focused on billionaire, Donald Trump, his real estate wealth and how much his estranged wife would be able to claim, a sequence of business and governmental violations led to the burning of a small two story apartment house on Atkins Avenue several miles away.
First the landlord caused or permitted the installation of illegal steel wiring on the windows, blocking that escape route. Second, the building had no smoke detectors as required by city law, which might have given the sleeping. Iris and Ivan Gomez more time to flee this I a.m. fire.
Third, the firefighters were delayed in bringing water to the fire because there were two broken hydrants on the street. Finally, the fire was started by faulty wiring in the kitchen ceiling toward the rear of the basement apartment. Two years earlier there was another electrical fire near the building’s boiler.
Almost 20 hours after the Gomez’s died, reporters were still unable to find out who was the landlord of the building.
Welcome to the “other” New York City. Welcome to the “other” many cities in our country where corruption, indifference, and greed join together to claim innocent lives with impunity. The politicians and their agency heads keep their jobs. The usually anonymous landlords, buffered by an equally anonymous corporation, continue to make their profits. And the U.S.A. maintains its record for the highest tire fatalities per capita of any country in the industrialized world.
Given these violations of laws specifically designed to save lives, you would expect some dismissals, prosecutions, shakeups of code enforcement bureaus or at least some investigations. Don’t count on it. Such actions would only lead to uncovering more landlords violating more codes, more hydrants that don’t work. The rulers who thrive on graft and the building owners who get richer have no interest in such disclosures. After all, they love New York. They wear the button, don’t they?
Meanwhile, back on Atkins Avenue, four small children lost their hardworking, loving parents. Another fire and another newspaper story quoting the regrets of brave firefighters who risked their lives to save others and failed because the business suit clique didn’t give them a chance.