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Fire escapes could have saved Luisa Chan's life. (Source: cookipediachef via Flickr)

While Bensonhurst may not display many signs of the so-called “culture of poverty,” there still exists another, more cutthroat side to a neighborhood with so many strong points.

Illegally subdivided apartments are something that most of us don’t think about, as it’s not a part of our everyday lives. For day laborers like Miguel Chan however, it’s an inescapable fact for both him and his two small children that two years ago, a lack of fire escapes in their building helped a raging fire take a wife and mother from their lives forever.

Whether the actual cause of the fire was arson by one of the eight men living on the second floor of 2033 86th Street (ironically, the same man credited with saving Chan’s son is accused of setting the fire) or from some freak accident is irrelevant.

Chan told the Daily News that while he can’t forgive the alleged arsonist, he also has trouble reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the loss of his wife.

“He still left a great damage to this family,” Chan said. “I just can’t think about right now.”

It’s irrelevant because Luisa Ordoñez Chan, age 34, died – along with four others – in a fire, and even a thousand years of prison for the culprit cannot bring her back from a preventable death.

What do you think should be done about the problem of illegal apartments? Do you think a shortage of affordable housing is to blame?

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  • LuLu

    I don’t think people should be renting illegal apartments. A one family house should be a one family house. If they want to rent an illegal apartment they should legally turn it into a two family house and pay the proper taxes. They should not be paying one family taxes and collecting rents!

  • Spiceangele

    Landlords and renters should be held accountable for any illegal apartments by handing down stiff penalties and/or jail time if they don’t comply within the laws set forth by the building department and as stipulated in the lease within a certain time frame the said tenant should be evicted if they don’t comply without having the landlord go to court. Landlords that don’t comply, shouldn’t be allowed to purchase or manage other dwellings within the five boroughs of NY.

    The lack of affordable housing is a huge problem especially for low and middle income families. Its extremely hard to make ends meet today you have people working two and three jobs just to put a roof over their families head as well as putting food on the table. Its the Landlords responsibly to be certain that when renting their apartments to a family that they these apartments are NOT split up into illegal rooms to rent to outsiders i.e. friends or another person just to meet the high cost of rent. Sometimes people rent an apartment and pool all their resources to meet the monthly payment for that dwelling.

    I know its difficult to inspect said apartments any house that has more than 4 families should be inspected giving said tenants notices. Each and every apartment as well as every hallway on each floor should have working smoke detectors and the tenants who rent said dwelling should not remove these smoke detectors because it goes off when they are cooking. In addition to the smoke detectors, all hallways should have a working fire extinguishers. Just to clarify NOT all landlords are money hungry or out to make a quick buck off the working man or woman. People just want to live in a decent affordable apartment.

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