Put children’s lives before profits

Early this morning two pre-school aged children died in an apartment house fire a couple blocks from here. Local officials are investigating the possibility that arson was the cause of the fire. They should also be considering that cause of the deaths was a lack of adequate fire codes and inspections. The story of this building is typical of the sort of neglect that leads to such tragedies.

The building in question, 145 Floral Avenue in Johnson City, New York, is owned by K&L Estate Corporation of Monroe, New York located in Orange County just north of New York City. That corporation is in turn owned by 33-year old Usher Kahan, the son of Yudel Kahan who is the head of Churchill Corporation Services which describes itself as the largest owner of furnished apartments in the New York City and Northern New Jersey area. The younger Mr. Kahan bought the property in 2014 for $70,000 at which time its tax classification was changed from 411-apartment to 400-commercial. (I am awaiting an answer from the County as to the impact of that change.)

Built in 1960, the building has seven apartments: some two bedroom renting for $550 a month plus utilities, some three bedroom renting for $635 a month. The total number of bedrooms is 15 suggesting that total the monthly rental income is around $3,500 a month. Although current tax information on the property is not listed on the Broome County web site (why not?) the real estate listing when the property was sold says that they are about $3,700 a year. That means that Mr. Kahan is realizing a 55% return on his investment every year—before he depreciates it for tax purposes. So why is he not required to install sprinklers in the building?

The answer, quite simply, is that local officials have not seen fit to require them. The answer to why they have not is harder to understand. Rents in the Binghamton area are very high compared to the cost of apartment buildings making the sort of investment returns enjoyed by Mr. Kahan the rule rather than the exception. It is time that some of those profits go into providing safe housing for our citizens. Any time a multiple-family building is sold, it should be required to be brought up to current fire code as is the case in many communities across the country. And those fire codes should be updated to require sprinklers and to mandate annual inspections of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms—reports are that the alarms at 145 Floral Avenue did not function.

An arsonist may well have set the fire that damaged this building and left several families homeless. But it is corporate greed and governmental neglect that caused the deaths of these two innocent children. Our citizen deserve better.


1 Response to “Put children’s lives before profits”

  1. 1 Leo Cotnoir October 19, 2015 at 15:10

    The Town of Union assessor informs me that the building classification for this property was not changed but that the County tax records are in error.

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