Brooklyn Boro

Greedy landlord gets 6 months for fatal blaze that killed tenant

September 28, 2022 Rob Abruzzese
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A Brooklyn landlord is getting six months in prison after one of his tenants died during a fire in 2019 that was made worse due to an illegal subdivision in the apartment.

Evener Leon, a 63-year-old landlord from Flatbush, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide on May 23, 2022 following a bench trial and sentenced to six months in prison by Hon. Danny Chun. He will also serve five years of probation following his release.

Prosecutors had asked for one-and-one-third to four years in prison.

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“This landlord’s unconscionable negligence cost an innocent man his life and left six others injured when a horrific fire broke out in his illegal apartments,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “Today’s sentence holds him accountable and sends a strong message to landlords who put profit over the health and safety of their tenants that violations of our housing laws and regulations can come with serious consequences.”

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Leon owned 1776 Nostrand Ave., a three-story, two-family house with commercial space on the first floor. Leon and his family lived in the second-floor apartment, while he had illegally divided up the top floor into four apartments instead of one.

Not only had the landlord split the apartment into four apartments, he had not paid his utility bills in years before the fire, according to prosecutors. This forced the tenants, already cramped, to rely on space heaters in the winter and to use hot plates to cook their meals.

The fire started at approximately 4 a.m. the morning of Dec. 2, 2019 on the second floor of the building, where Leon lived, but it quickly spread to the tenants’ apartments, according to prosecutors.

Since the apartment was illegally split into four units, the tenants had trouble escaping the fire as they crowded onto a rear fire escape to get out of the building. One person died, six others were seriously injured, and nearly everyone in the building at the time suffered from smoke inhalation.

Jean Yves Lalanne, a 70-year-old who lived in the front apartment, was trapped in his apartment after the fire engulfed the stairway and died with no way to safely exit the property. There was no fire escape in the front of the building. He died after he attempted to jump from his third-floor apartment to Nostrand Avenue.

Fire marshals were able to determine that the cause of the fire was indeed the space heaters. One of these devices started an electrical fire in the rear of the second floor. The marshals said that there were no sprinklers in the building and there were no fireproof or self-closing doors, which are required under provisions of the NYS Multiple Dwelling Law, on the third floor.

“This landlord forced his residents to live in incredibly unsafe conditions which led to a fire that claimed the life of one innocent New Yorker, and needlessly risked the lives of other occupants and dozens of firefighters who bravely responded to fight the fire,” said Laura Kavanagh, acting commissioner of the FDNY.

“The city’s housing laws and regulations protect tenants’ safety, including in the event of a fire,” said Jocelyn E. Strauber, commissioner of the NYC Department of Investigation. “This defendant broke those laws, renting out four illegally-subdivided apartments and creating other hazardous conditions that led to the death of one tenant and injuries to the others when a two-alarm fire broke out in his property. Mr. Leon’s conviction and sentence for criminally negligent homicide reflects his utter disregard for his tenant’s lives and his legal obligations.”

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