Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that going forward he plans to emergency-evacuate tenants from illegal basement apartments vulnerable to the kind of flooding that swept through the city — rather than crack down on the illegal dwellings ahead of time.
And even then, he said, officials won’t evict tenants from the substandard dwellings, effectively turning a blind eye to the hazardous housing — despite five of six basement apartments in which 11 people drowned when the remnants of Hurricane Ida lashed the Big Apple having been constructed illegally.
During a news conference, de Blasio acknowledged that having an “absolute accounting” of the city’s estimated 50,000-plus illegal basement apartments — many of which potentially lack adequate escape routes — is “not something we thought of previously.”
The mayor — under fire for failing to prepare before the deadly storm struck Wednesday night — said that “at least 100,000 people, and there’s a strong possibility there’s a lot more, are living in those apartments.”
Expressing concern more for illegal immigrants fearful of coming forward than for their safety in the illegal dwellings, the mayor said, “So many people who end up in the illegal basements are fearful to communicate, for fear they might be evicted or, worse in their mind, deported,” de Blasio said.
“If we communicate, we can really convince people that they will not be evicted, that they will not be put in any harm because of their documentation status, at least we have the opportunity then to get people to safety when a situation like this occurs.”
He added: “We need places for people to live. Obviously, we need them to be safe.”
De Blasio also admitted a pilot program by his administration to bring illegal basement apartments up to code largely failed because it’s “very difficult, physically” and “very costly” to the property owners.
“So we have to figure out a way forward,” he said. “I don’t think it’s realistic to say, ‘Let’s just have no one live in them,’ because I don’t know where all those folks are going to end up who need a place to live.”
De Blasio, who has been criticized for ignoring the weather warnings ahead of Ida hitting New York said forecasts of future flooding could result in “travel bans” being announced as much as a day earlier or even “that morning,” after which “people will have to leave the streets, get out of subways, etc. — immediately.”
In addition, Hizzoner said he was creating an “Extreme Weather Response Task Force” that would report back with other recommendations in 30 days.
NYPD sources ridiculed de Blasio’s plan to have cops and other emergency workers go door-to-door to evacuate tenants from illegal basement apartments.
“There are not enough first responders to handle 50,000 illegal apartments and do their regular duties, plus the extra duties the storm will normally bring,” a Manhattan cop said.
A Bronx cop said, “If he knows where illegal apartments are, he should take care of that problem now before another drop of rain falls. Those apartments are death traps for a lot of reasons.”
And a Brooklyn cop said the outgoing mayor’s plan “could be the dumbest thing this idiot has said in eight years,” adding, “Hopefully, there won’t be a storm in the next four months.”
City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) blasted de Blasio for “condoning illegal apartments,” saying it “sent a bad message” and “set a dangerous precedent.”
Holden also said enforcement of building codes by de Blasio’s administration “has been a disaster” and he blamed Hizzoner mayor for the deaths of at least 11 people who drowned in their basement apartments Wednesday night.
“The mayor has blood on his hands,” Holden said.