New York City Sued For $2.2 Billion After Harlem Family Dies In Home Fire
Family members of Andrea Pollidore are suing New York City after she and five of her children died in a fire in May.
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Her family is now suing New York City for $2.2 billion. The family claims the city failed to make sure older public housing buildings were safe and complied with modern safety standards.
The family lived in the Fred Samuels Houses on West 142nd Street, which were built in 1910 and had no sprinklers. The kitchen was right next to the door. When the stove caught fire, there was no way for Pollidore and her children to get out.
“There needs to be a message sent because things aren’t getting better here. There’s been major, major neglect in that building,” family lawyer Evan Oshan told the New York Post.
"It’s hard to put a dollar value on the loss of human life, but the $2.2 billion, we feel, is appropriate in light of the current situation."
New York City has long struggled to update public housing and was even sued recently by the federal government for lying about lead paint that lead to the deaths of dozens of children.
New York City settled the lawsuit in January by agreeing to put $2.2 billion into updating decrepit NYCHA buildings.
According to investigators, 45-year-old Pollidore was cooking around 1 a.m. on May 8 and fell asleep. She had taken the batteries out of the smoke detectors because neighbors complained that they went off every time she cooked.
Her children in the fifth-floor apartment all died in the fire that quickly overtook the apartment as firefighters fought to get into the apartment.
“As soon as I saw the flames, it was literally in one apartment. They were as vibrant and destructive as possible. It wasn’t pretty. I heard glass breaking, kids yelling. As the fire is spreading, I heard actual voices screaming,” Abdul Salaam told the New York Post. He first saw the fire from the street and called the fire department.
“They were clearly in fear for their lives.”
Remembering the Pollidore family: this memorial is set up outside the Harlem apartment where 6 were killed in a fire Wednesday morning. A memorial at PS 194 where the kids attended school is planned for later today. @ABC7NY pic.twitter.com/Rs1dcjIBio— Candace McCowan (@CandaceMcCowan7) May 9, 2019
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said they all died from burns and smoke inhalation.
“The fire met [the firefighters] at the front door of the apartment. The heavy fire was showing from five windows of that apartment, and as aggressive as the members could be – they were not able to reach those occupants,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said during a press conference the day after the fire.
“[Firefighters] aggressively moved in, extinguishing the fire as they did. When they reached the two rear bedrooms, we found six occupants of that apartment — deceased.”
Pollidore’s family, including one of her daughters Raven Reyes, filed the suit on May 18 and Reyes herself is seeking $18 million for emotional damage.
Pollidore and her children were well known in the building for being friendly and always offering help, food or clothes to other residents.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke out about the incident, saying every resident of the city needs “to keep the Pollidore family in our prayers and our thoughts."
"All of us as New Yorkers are feeling this tragedy,” he added.
Last year, federal investigators slammed New York City's leaders in court for lying about efforts to remove lead from public housing buildings and update fire safety hazards.
After investigating New York City for three years, federal housing investigators discovered the city filled out fake work orders to make it look like they were addressing public housing issues, but they were not.
“The New York City Housing Authority violates basic health and safety regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD),” the complaint said.
“These regulations require NYCHA to protect children from the lead paint that is present within apartments in roughly one-third of NYCHA developments and, more generally, to provide residents decent, safe and sanitary housing. NYCHA has repeatedly made false statements to HUD and the public regarding these issues and has deceived HUD inspectors.”