Two Open Doors Created ‘Flue Effect’ of Deadly Smoke at Bronx High-Rise

“There were people that I understand, from talking with my neighbors, they were trying to go down the stairs, and they were tripping over bodies,” said Renee Howard, 68, who was sheltering Monday afternoon at nearby Monroe College in the Bronx after evacuating her home of 30 years. “Oh! Jesus. Help us, God.”

One family of five appeared to have left their apartment on the top floor in an effort to flee to safety, only to be overcome by smoke, officials told the family’s relatives. The family, the Dukurays, had three children between age 5 to 12, and the relatives said they now believed all five were dead.

“I wish I could do anything to tell them not to come out from the house,” one of the relatives, Hawa Dukuray, said. “I think they maybe tried to escape.”

She said she was told that by the time they reached “the middle,” they could not see through the smoke.

Problems with the self-closing doors do not appear to have been an entirely new issue for the building. Between 2014 and 2019, the city housing department had issued violations for problems with self-closing doors to four different apartments and one stairway. Records show another complaint about a problem with a self-closing door to an apartment in 2021. All had been resolved.

There had been complaints over a lack of adequate heating, including three in 2021. Those were also resolved, according to city records, and Mr. Adams said on Monday that there had been no outstanding complaints about heating.

The building has been owned since early 2020 by a trio of investors: LIHC Investment Group, Belveron Partners and Camber Property Group. One of Camber’s executives, Rick Gropper, served as a housing adviser to Mr. Adams and contributed $400 to his mayoral campaign, the maximum amount allowed for those doing business with the city. He and other business associates have donated to other Democrats as well.

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