By Mark Hallum
Mayor Bill de Blasio briefed the public on an incident involving the deaths of two Bronx toddlers in homeless housing due to a radiator valve malfunction when he visited Bayside last week.
What caused the radiator to malfunction was not known, but de Blasio was calling for a full investigation of what he referred to as an “unprecedented” “freak accident.”
The two girls were in the first floor apartment when a valve unleashed steam, causing severe burns and cardiac arrest in the two girls, ages 1 and 2, FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala told Reuters.
The apartment where the incident occurred is part of the city’s cluster-site program for temporary homeless housing in privately owned buildings. According to de Blasio, the last semi-annual homeless shelter inspection of the building took place a month ago. The city Buildings Department site, however, lists a variety of violations since the 1980s, but with none indicating issues with the heating system.
“But what we know so far suggests an extraordinary, an unprecedented accident – something that we – no one that I have talked to so far in any agency has ever seen anything like this,” de Blasio said on his Dec. 8 visit. “Steve Banks, who has so much history – for 30 years worked with the homeless and leading experts on building for New York City – no one has ever seen anything like this. And we need to understand what happened here. We do not see any precedent in anything that has happened before. This was a freak accident, a series of painful coincidences that led to the loss of these children.”
There were no evident health or safety violations at the building, according to de Blasio, when he visited following the deaths of the two girls. But he did not know at the time the exact nature of the semi-annual homeless shelter inspection or if radiators are scrutinized during examinations.
“A very natural question is should New Yorkers be concerned about their radiators,” he added. “What I can tell you is we have no history of something like this specific incident.”
Putting into question the overall safety of cluster-sites alone should not be the emphasis of public attention, the mayor said, but rather understanding the cause to prevent this unique issue from occurring in the future at any location.
The mayor is calling for a full investigation to determine the cause behind why the valve failed at 720 Hunts Point Ave.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall