This article was syndicated with permission from the SW Yonkers HamletHub
On April 20th, 2023, a fire broke out at 1 Willow Place, Yonkers NY. Fire happens often in Yonkers. However, this was a fire that could have easily been prevented. The threat to property and public safety was reason for concern.
Smoke billowed from a vacant structure in the late afternoon on April 20th, 2023. Cars whizzed by on busy Warburton Avenue a few feet away at the bottom of the hill. Students from the neighboring Charter School gazed in amazement as they passed, having been adjourned for the day. Residents of an adjoining house next to the lot worried.
A vagrant had illegally entered the premise and started a fire in a metal drum to keep warm. It was easy access because the lot owner did little to secure the building. A wire fence had an open entrance and the building itself lacked sufficient security despite a pad lock and wood panel re enforcement.
The brick structure served as a car storage and repair facility for years. Over a period of time, fluids from the storage and repair seeped into the soil. Oil, transmission fluid, and gasoline became incorporated in the ground making it flammable.
When the drum ignited on that cold day, the path to destruction was slowed by an alert sent by residents from an apartment building across the street. The Yonkers fire department responded quickly and the fire was extinguished. What could have been, wasn’t. Yet what happened was not good.
In 2021, SW Yonkers Hamlet Hub published an article about the purchase of the lot. https://news.hamlethub.com/swyonkers/life/2644-yonkers-developer-ruins-neighborhood A reader commented at the time that there were other issues more important to be concerned about than an illegal driveway. Two years later, that illegal driveway became the gateway for vagrants and vandalism.
The building is an anchor for utility wires that connect to transformers and major supply cables along the Warburton Avenue corridor. This includes traffic signals and electric lights. A fire would have severed that power source.
Although the cars were removed from the lot after the initial purchase, the lot remained a source of debris and a loitering spot for vagrants. https://news.hamlethub.com/swyonkers/life/2653-south-yonkers-developer-creates-illegal-driveway Calls to city officials produced a slow response. Calls to Yonkers City Councilwoman, Shanae Williams produced no response.
The fire is out but the old brick structure remains vulnerable. The easy access which allowed the vagrant(s) to enter the building remains the same. The bunjee cords offer little prevention to anyone determined to enter the area. The residents surrounding the property are wary of another episode. They have dealt with the broken sidewalk on the lot for years. Nothing has been done despite the city code to correct. Residents state that many pedestrians have tripped and fallen, trying to navigate the broken walkway.
“Know Your Responsibilities
As a property owner/renter/business owner, you are responsible to keep the entire sidewalk area abutting your property free of litter, debris, high grass and weeds as well as any high grass or weeds covering a fire hydrant in front of your property. As per City Code ?91-34, the area to be kept clean extends 18 inches into the roadway. Failure to comply is punishable as a Class III Offense and a fine of up to $1,500.
All sidewalks abutting your property must be kept in good repair and free of tripping hazards as per Section 103-3 of the Yonkers Code.” -(Yonkers enforcement code)
Will another fire break out at the corner of Willow Pl. and Warburton? Will a pedestrian trip and fall again sustaining serious injury on the broken sidewalk? What happens when the sidewalk is covered with snow and the trip hazards are not visible? The potential is there and the consequences are dire.