https://nypost.com/2021/09/03/nyc-knew-of-trouble-with-basement-homes-before-ida-floods/

The city received complaints about two of the basement apartments where tenants drowned amid flash flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida — including one that took the lives of a 2-year-old and his parents — but didn’t prevent people from living there, records show.

In two cases, inspectors closed the complaints after they were twice unable to get inside the buildings, according to online DOB records.

In a third, the DOB issued violations for an illegal apartment that was removed in 2001, and a follow-up complaint in 2007 proved unfounded, the DOB said.

One case involved the house at 44-60 64th St. in Flushing, Queens, where a family of three — 2-year-old Lobsang Lama; mom  Mingma Sherpa, 48; and dad Ang Gelu Lama, 50 — died Wednesday night.

The DOB got a complaint about an illegal conversion there in 2005 but it was closed — as per the department’s policy — following two visits by an inspector who was “unable to gain access” either time, the records show.

A man named John helps to clean a friend’s basemen on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 in Queens.
Mark Lennihan/AP

On Thursday, a DOB inspector found the building was “shaking” and “vibrating” due to flooding damage,and an inspector was unable to enter on Friday because of an NYPD investigation, according to the records.

Attempts to inspect the house at 55-35 84th St., in Elmhurst, Queens, following complaints in February and August 2012 about someone illegally living in the basement were also closed when the DOB couldn’t get access, according to the records.

Friday's cover of The Post.
Friday’s cover of The Post.

It turned into a death trap for Yue Lian Chen, 86.

A violation issued Thursday alleges that living space was created in the cellar without permits for plumbing and electrical work.

The legal use is for “recreation, boiler and storage” space, according to the records.

In a bitterly ironic twist, DOB records also note that the property isn’t located in the city’s “Special Flood Hazard Zone” designated by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

At the third property, at 153-10 Peck Ave., two men and a woman were found dead in the basement.

Those victims have yet to be identified.

A total of 13 people died during Wednesday night’s flooding, including 11 who drowned in basement apartments.

Five of the apartments are in Queens and one is in Brooklyn.

In a prepared statement, Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca said, “DOB inspectors have confirmed that five of the six properties where New Yorkers tragically lost their lives during the floods were illegally converted cellar and basement apartments.”

Eddie, an immigrant from Mexico, walks through his flooded basement level apartment in Queens following this week's storm.
Eddie, an immigrant from Mexico, walks through his flooded basement level apartment in Queens following this week’s storm.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The entrance of one of the Queens apartments that suffered flooding.
The entrance of one of the Queens apartments that suffered flooding.
Brigitte Stelzer
Two different complaints about in 2014 were closed without action by the Department of Buildings, according to records.
Two different complaints about in 2014 were closed without action by the Department of Buildings, according to records.
Ron Adar/M10s/SplashNews.com

“Our team is tirelessly conducting inspections at over a thousand properties across the five boroughs in the aftermath of Wednesday’s storm, and we’ll continue doing everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe in their residences,” she added.

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