Bronx radiator explosion: Who bears culpability for the death of two Hunts Point sisters, Ibanez Ambrose, Scylee Ambrose? How the system failed a family.
Two napping baby sisters died from burns Wednesday when a valve blew off a radiator in their Bronx apartment and filled their bedroom with scalding steam.
Killed were Ibanez Ambrose, 2, and Scylee Ambrose, 1.
Despite being rushed to Lincoln Hospital after the 12:06 p.m. blast the infant girls were declared dead.
The incident reports dnainfo happened at a Hunts Point apartment building used as a mixed-use facility which NYC uses to house homeless families, located at 720 Hunts Point Ave. near Bryant Avenue.
The girls’ parents had just put them down for a nap in their crib when a valve on a radiator came off, sending steam shooting into their room, police sources said.
Told the children’s father, an out of work tattoo artist, Peter Ambrose via the nydailynews: ‘The radiator blew up,’
‘The steam killed my babies. It was New York public housing.’
A report via nycbslocal cited responding Fire Department officials saying that the radiator blast was likely the result of a malfunction.
A neighbor said the girls were napping in a bedroom with the door mostly shut, as their father slept in another room in the first floor apartment. The children’s mother, Danielle Ambrose, came home and went to check on the girls — only to see the room filled with steam.
Told the neighbor, Maritza Morales: ‘When the door opened, there was a popping sound from the radiator,’
‘It looks like a valve blew, but they don’t really know what happened.’
The blast led to neighbors scurrying to the streets as the children’s parents ran onto the street with their scalded children, where attempts at CPR were made.
Told neighbor Gilberto Lorenzo: ‘The only thing I could see was they were purple and white,’
Adding: ‘They weren’t moving at all.’
According to neighbors, the family had entered the holiday season already experiencing hard times.
‘They had two beautiful baby girls,’ Morales said. ‘They’re both homeless and out of work. They’ve been here about a year and two months. She plays guitar to make ends meet. Lately, she’s been playing so they can have a nice Christmas, so they can have any Christmas at all.’
Told neighbor Tye Wiggins, 28: ‘It’s heartbreaking. This could have happened to any one of us in the building.’
Another neighbor, Annie Martinez, 47, said she saw steam pouring from the family’s apartment.
She noted that her heat had been unbearable earlier in the day.
‘This building is always having problems,’ Martinez said. ‘This building used to be a decent building before the landlord turned it into a shelter.’
Told the sister’s grief stricken inconsolable father, Peter Ambrose: ‘It’s not fair,’
Adding: ‘They were the most beautiful babies in the world.’
Sad. RT @ABC7NY: #BREAKING UPDATE: 2 children killed in radiator mishap in Bronx apartment https://t.co/UM5Qp3trWS pic.twitter.com/FYaPZWvJk5
— K. (@TAB2RD) December 7, 2016
According to city records cited by the nydailynews, the building is used as a shelter for homeless families and run by the Bushwick Economic Development Corp. A call to the organization told the tabloid had yet to be returned.
Responding to the incident, the city was trying to determine if officials had been placing families with someone who’s on the public advocate’s “100 worst landlords” list. A Department of Housing Preservation and Development spokeswoman said Moshe Piller, the head officer of the corporation that owns the building, ‘is known to us.’
As of yet the agency had yet to determine whether Piller was the same person whose name appears on the landlords list.
Currently, the city’s Department of Homeless Services has five families in the 48 apartment building under its cluster-site program, in which the city houses families in private-sector apartment buildings, paying the rent until the family can find permanent housing.
The cluster-site program came has come under repeated attacks, allegedly putting families into decrepit apartments.
During his run for office, Mayor de Blasio vowed to cut back on use of the program.
Despite the city cutting back on using more than 450 such units, the agency was still relying on more than 3,200 and has struggled to phase out as promised.
Told De Blasio hours after the sisters were killed: ‘We are in the preliminary stages of what is a highly active, multiagency investigation into what happened in this home and whether there’s anything that can be done to help prevent such an unspeakable event in the future,’
Adding: ‘The city will not rest until we can answer what has given rise to this heartbreaking incident.’
Of note, In March 2015, NYC’s Department of Investigation issued a critical report on shelters, specifically labeling the cluster sites it inspected ‘to be the worst-maintained, the most poorly monitored,‘ and ‘rife with vermin.’
That included 55 violations at another site run by the Bushwick Economic Development Corp., the nonprofit that oversaw families in the Hunts Point building.
‘Our report found a lot of dangerous conditions at clusters,’ said Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters. ‘The (Homeless Services Department) agreed with us and said they were going to phase the clusters out, all of which gives added urgency to us looking at this now.’
City records indicate the Department of Buildings logging about 60 complaints at the building. Inspectors visited the site in June, but their jurisdiction only allowed them to check the exterior and the common spaces. Housing inspectors — who are responsible for checking interiors — have visited the building several times this year.
On Oct. 31, the nydailynews reports they answered a complaint of ‘no heat’ throughout the building. On Nov. 2, they cited the building for a faulty radiator valve in another apartment, but there was no record of a radiator issue in the apartment where the children lived. During the Nov. 2 visit, inspectors also found defective window guards in two apartments.
City records show the building was hit with a code violation Nov. 10 regarding ‘future gas connections.’
The records do not spell out what the building owner, listed as 719 Hunts Point Equities LLC, did in response to that citation.
The units, usually found in crumbling, low-income rental apartments in privately owned buildings, house 11,000 people in 260 buildings across the city and cost taxpayers $125 million per year in rent and social services costs, officials said.
Many of the sites, including the one which saw toddler sisters, Ibanez Ambrose and Scylee Vayoh Ambrose killed are on the Public Advocate’s worst landlords list. A state of facts that must have been common knowledge with the NYC Housing Dept.
Told Public Advocate Letitia James in a statement: ‘It is unforgivable that the City continues to enter into contracts with providers who do not ensure that these apartments are habitable, and today, we witnessed the lethal consequences of this neglect,’
Adding: ‘No funds should be provided to landlords to house homeless families unless full floor-to-ceiling, building-wide inspections are conducted and reveal no hazardous conditions. These inspections must be ongoing and the results made publicly accessible.’
Said City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., who represents the area: ‘As a father myself, this truly is every parent’s worst nightmare, and my heart and prayers go out to the family of these two young children.’
Told NYC Controller Scott Stringer: ‘This stirs up incredibly difficult emotions,’
‘It comes as the homeless population has just reached yet another record high, and the number of children in the (Department of Homeless Services) system is soaring. We have to do better.’
The Bronx radiator blast incident led to Department of Social Services saying Wednesday evening that the four remaining families in the other cluster-site units were being removed immediately from the building.
Noted a recent social media post from the children’s mother, Danielle Ambrose: ‘I don’t Kno where I would be without them.’
As of Monday there were a record 60,868 people in homeless shelters, this despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to deal with homelessness head on…..
Friends & family have started a small memorial for the two young girls killed in a radiator mishap in the Bronx https://t.co/ksb9ii4KAO pic.twitter.com/96CyW5PIZW
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) December 7, 2016