Councilmen Vincent Gentile, Jumaane Williams, with Brooklyn Borough President Eric AdJumaane Williams, Twitter

Four months after a devastating fire in an apartment above a Flatbush Avenue church, elected officials are taking on the issue of illegally-converted apartments.

On Nov. 19, a fire ripped through Eglise Baptiste Clarte Celeste Church on Flatbush Avenue near Brooklyn College, killing one man and displacing 16. More than 100 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire, caused by faulty wiring, according to Councilman Jumaane Williams.

Williams, Councilman Vincent Gentile and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said they’re planning to introduce legislation later this week to crack down on illegally subdivided housing.

Williams told Metro there have been two fires in his district this year because of illegal conversions, and he wants to go after building owners who subdivide units and create dangerous living conditions -- some with low-hanging wires, no heat, light or smoke detectors.


The legislation would create a new building code violation called aggravated illegal conversion, and would levy a $15,000 fine on landlords who carve single homes or apartments into three or more units. The bill would give City building inspectors extra powers to investigate suspected illegal subdivisions.

City agencies would also be tasked with finding replacement housing for displaced tenants, Williams said.

“I think people don’t realize how dangerous these are, these unscrupulous owners who are doing this all in the name of money, with complete disregard for people’s lives,” Williams said.

A 2008 study by the Pratt Center for Community Development and the Chhaya Community Development corporation estimated the number of illegal apartments in New York City at 114,000, the New York Times previously reported.

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