The recent tragic loss of life in New York City of occupants of illegal basement apartments demonstrates the danger that they pose to their occupants.
The occupants died by drowning in the rapid flooding of these below-ground residences. These apartments usually have only one way in and out, this being the interior basement stairs. During a fire or other emergency, the occupants may not be able to escape via these stairs. The absence of a second means of egress creates a dangerous situation when a emergency evacuation of the apartment is needed. This fact leads to horrific outcomes for its occupants.
The heating plant for a home, which is usually located in the basement, creates another hazard for the occupants. A malfunctioning furnace or inadequate flue ventilation can cause a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide gas is odorless and colorless, which makes it very deadly. Carbon monoxide detectors are needed to give occupants warning of the danger.
The Town of Southampton has many of these illegal apartments. Hampton Bays and Flanders may have the largest share of these illegal apartments. The town’s code enforcement effort to identify and take corrective action has been totally inadequate.
Southampton Town should immediately start a program to identify and vacate these apartments. The owners then will have to bring them up to code and obtain certificates of occupancy before they can be occupied again. These apartments will need an independent second means of egress. Windows will have to be egress windows. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will be necessary, along with other code requirements.
All residents of the Town of Southampton must be protected by existing occupancy, building, fire and health codes, no matter where they live. Unfortunately many of the occupants of these apartments may be children, which makes the situation even more urgent.
The town cannot wait for a tragic incident before it takes action.
One fine body…