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Queens drowning death came in illegally converted basement apartment

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The owners of a Queens building where a woman drowned in the basement during Tropical Storm Ida have been charged with illegally renting out the ground floor storage space as an apartment.

Yue Li Chin, 84, drowned late Wednesday in the illegal basement apartment on 84th Street in Elmhurst, and the building’s owners were charged with occupancy certificate violations hours later. New York Daily News reported.

Of the 13 dead in New York City, 11 were found dead in basements, police said, as the rapidly rising water level left them no way out.

It’s unclear how many of the other deaths could be related to illegally converted basement apartments, which are often rented to impoverished families and immigrants in the city.

Yue Li Chin, 84, drowned late Wednesday in the illegal basement of this building on 84th Street in Elmhurst. The owners were subpoenaed for illegally converting the unit

A bus navigates abandoned cars on a flooded highway in Queens on Thursday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida caused massive flooding

A bus navigates abandoned cars on a flooded highway in Queens on Thursday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida caused massive flooding

Severe flooding can be seen in Queens on Thursday morning.  Of the 13 dead in New York City, 11 were found dead in basements

Severe flooding can be seen in Queens on Thursday morning. Of the 13 dead in New York City, 11 were found dead in basements

Ida’s death toll in the northeastern states is now 48. In New Jersey, more than 20 people died in flooded homes or on the roads.

There were also deaths in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

In Chin’s case, her panicked son found her dead shortly before midnight on Wednesday, after water flooded the street and poured into her basement apartment.

Her drowning and others in cramped basement apartments emphasize the risks of the often substandard units.

“Among the people most at risk here during flash flooding are those who live in unusual basement dwellings that do not meet the safety codes necessary to save lives,” tweeted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat.

“These are working-class people, immigrants and low-income people and families,” she added.

Ocasio-Cortez argued that the situation shows “how the climate crisis is an inequality crisis.”

Precipitation from Hurricane Ida flooded countless basements in New York City

Precipitation from Hurricane Ida flooded countless basements in New York City

Ang Lama, 50, Mingma Sherpa, 48, and their two-year-old son, Ang (full name Lobsang), were found dead Thursday morning in their basement apartment in Woodside, Queens.

Water from the flash flood — caused by the remains of Hurricane Ida — began flowing into the family’s basement apartment around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, as Sherpa frantically called her upstairs neighbor for help.

“The water is coming in now… The water is coming out the window!” Sherpa reportedly yelled through the phone at Choi Sledge, who lives on the third floor of the complex.

Choi told The New York Times that she urged the family to “get out” and go upstairs. When Choi tried to call back minutes later, there was no answer.

The basement has only one door and the residents can only go outside via an external staircase.

Deborah Torres, who lives on the first floor of the complex, says she believes the stairs may have flooded with running water, making it impossible for the family to escape.

‘I think the pressure of the water was too strong that they couldn’t open the door’ [to get out and up the stairs] Torres told The New York Daily News. ‘The [basement] was like a swimming pool with stairs.’

Ang Lama, 50, and his two-year-old son (pictured) drowned in their basement apartment Wednesday night

Roberto Bravo, 66, died in the basement of his Queens home.  His family posted tributes to him on social media on Friday

Ang Lama, 50, and his two-year-old son (pictured left) drowned Wednesday night in their basement apartment in Queens, along with the two-year-old’s mother, who is not pictured. Roberto Bravo, 66, (right) died in the basement of his home in Queens

Danny Hong shows where the water reached him as he shows the damage in his basement apartment on 153rd St. in the Vlissingen neighborhood of the Queens borough

Danny Hong shows where the water reached him as he shows the damage in his basement apartment on 153rd St. in the Vlissingen neighborhood of the Queens borough

Also killed in a basement was Darlene Hsu, who got stuck in a freak accident while visiting the super’s apartment.

After he was called to check the building’s pumps, the apartment flooded with such force that water slammed the front door shut and trapped her inside, her ex-husband told the Daily News.

The building at 61-20 Grand Central Parkway where Hsu died had a long history of complaints, including a still-unpaid $1,250 fine imposed last year for failing to maintain the residence according to code.

Another victim was a 66-year-old man, originally from Ecuador, who died in a windowless bedroom in Brooklyn, according to the New York Times.

A 2008 study by the Pratt Center for Community Development found that 114,000 New Yorkers lived in illegal basement apartments, but researchers say the number is likely to be much higher now.

“The problem is that because these spaces are illegal, because there are huge fines, because the tenants need the space, the homeowners need the income, nobody wants to talk about it,” said Rebekah Morris, who leads basement legalization. . work at Pratt, AFP told AFP.

“So it’s very, very difficult to judge what the actual numbers are, but we know anecdotally that it’s very high,” she added.

Darlene Hsu was also killed in a basement in Queens, who got stuck in a freak accident while visiting the super's apartment

Darlene Hsu was also killed in a basement in Queens, who got stuck in a freak accident while visiting the super’s apartment

The problem is becoming more acute as New York’s population grows, but adequate housing is not keeping pace.

Over the past decade, the city has added 629,000 people, bringing the population to more than 8.8 million, according to U.S. census data released last month.

All but one died in this week’s storm in the Queens neighborhood, which is home to many immigrants, including many undocumented workers from Central and South America.

Morris said basement units are “an important part of the housing ecosystem” among immigrant communities, essential workers and elderly residents, who cannot afford to live elsewhere.

‘There is such a big crisis here. We don’t have enough homes. And so people rent where they can’t get a roof over their heads, which puts them at risk,” Morris says.

Experts want action to be taken against unscrupulous landlords who take advantage of low supply and cut corners to maximize profits.

“There has to be some responsibility for the property owners who have illegally cut up apartments,” Nicole Gelinas, an urban economics expert at the Manhattan Institute think tank, told AFP.

Mayor Bill de Blasio only declared a state of emergency after seven bodies were found in basements

Mayor Bill de Blasio only declared a state of emergency after seven bodies were found in basements

A man who gave his name to John helps clean a friend's basement in New York's Queens neighborhood on Friday.  The area was flooded on Wednesday

A man who gave his name to John helps clean a friend’s basement in New York’s Queens neighborhood on Friday. The area was flooded on Wednesday

But activists also say basement apartments are part of the solution to New York’s housing problems.

It’s not necessarily basements that are problematic, but illegal ones that don’t meet basic safety requirements, such as suitable escape routes, they say.

The Pratt Center is part of a coalition of groups seeking to increase the number of legally recognized underground units under a campaign called BASE, which stands for Basement Apartments Safe for Everyone.

They estimate there is a potential for creating 200,000 safe and affordable basement apartments to increase New York’s housing stock.

On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said extreme weather caused by climate change meant New York required a “new set of ground rules” for those living underground.

“We need a plan to evacuate people living in basements when we have extreme rain and flooding,” he told MSNBC, announcing that he would set up a task force to study the matter.

De Blasio only declared a state of emergency after seven bodies were found in basements.

“Things we were told were once in a century now happen regularly. We need to change what we’re doing across the board,” he said at a press conference on Friday.

“It’s not just us — we’ve seen the devastation in Louisiana, we’re seeing what’s happening with the wildfires.”

“We all understand that this stems from a climate crisis and they are creating brutal problems – things that are happening with a speed and ferocity that we have never seen before,” the mayor added.

De Blasio said he would introduce a new ‘rain’ response plan, with sharp warnings to residents he said would be ‘abrupt’.

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