Lawmakers hold public hearing on illegal subdivisions

Four years after two New York City firefighters lost their lives trying to escape a burning building in the Bronx, lawmakers held a hearing Friday to discuss the issue of illegal partitions, which contributed to the firefighters' deaths.

State senators Ruben Diaz and Pedro Espada launched an inquiry into illegally subdivided apartments. According to experts, there are at least 110 such housing units in the Bronx alone, which are advertised in newspapers.

Officials say tenants at apartment buildings are erecting drywall partitions to create subdivisions and collect more rent. The walls, however, present a major fire hazard.

A Bronx landlord was recently convicted for allowing a subdivision to be built inside a unit at 234 E. 178th St. that caught fire in 2005. According to fire officials, the illegal partition hid the flames and blocked the fire escape, forcing six FDNY firefighters to jump from the fourth story. Curtis Meyran and John Bellew died on impact.

Officials from the New York City Department of Buildings claim illegal subdivisions are flourishing in the Bronx and beyond due to lack of affordable housing.

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