Dozens of people, believed to be migrants, found living in cramped South Richmond Hill cellar

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Mayor Eric Adams confirmed that dozens of people, believed to be migrants, were found living illegally inside a commercial business in South Richmond Hill on Monday afternoon.

The cellar dwellers were discovered inside an illegal conversion of a 2-story, mixed-use building on Liberty Avenue in South Richmond Hill, according to the city’s Department of Buildings. DOB Inspectors were called to the scene at 132-03 Liberty Ave. by FDNY first responders after fire prevention inspectors acting on a tip found the people living in cramped and illegal conditions.

“The system did its job,” Adams said during his weekly briefing at City Hall Tuesday. “It was first responded by the FDNY, I believe, and then DOB came in and made sure that those who were there were removed and they were given the services that were available.”

The Mayor and his team could not confirm reports that they were taken to a migrant shelter in the Bronx.

“We’re still investigating what happened here,” Adams said. “When you have situations like what we are facing here, there’s some that’s going to attempt to exploit it. There’s some who are going to be an attempt to do illegal housing. So, we have an obligation with DOB, FDNY and all of our services to respond and take necessary action.  That’s what was done last night, and we’re still looking at exactly what took place. This started with a 311 complaint and the city responded accordingly.”

The inspectors found that the first-floor commercial space in the building and the cellar had been illegally converted into sleeping quarters, with 14 bunk beds and 13 more beds packed tightly on both floors. They also discovered plumbing work had been performed in the building without proper permits. In addition, the cellar level was found to have inadequate egress for the people sleeping there. With no ventilation nor natural light.

As a result, DOB issued a Full Vacate Order for the first floor and cellar of the building, due to severe overcrowding and hazardous fire trap conditions found in the building. The DOB issued two violations to the landlord, 132-03 Liberty Avenue Management Corp. for illegal work without a permit, and for occupying the building contrary to city records.

The people living inside the building were removed after DOB issued a vacate order due to overcrowding and unsafe conditions found in the cellar. The FDNY found numerous fire hazards, and NYCEM referred people in need of further assistance.

The building sits in the district of Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson.

“The heart-wrenching discovery of 40 individuals living in the basement in hazardous conditions is a sharp reminder that our city is facing a historic migrant crisis,” Anderson said. “My office is being briefed by all relevant governmental agencies as this crisis unfolds. I am grateful for the quick response from all agencies. The City, State, and Federal government must continue to support safe and cost-effective ways to house our migrant neighbors, including the NYC program to partner with houses of worship and other non-profit entities for secure housing.”