Slumlord Behind Deadly Bronx Fire Should Not Lead Housing Policy

Slumlords (above Rick Gropper) should not be in charge of housing policy.
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Photos: Camber Property Group\YouTube

Slumlords (above Rick Gropper) should not be in charge of housing policy. Just days after a deadly fire ripped through a crowded Philadelphia home, New York City was hit with its deadliest fire in three decades. On January 9th, a faulty space heater sparked a fire that raged through an affordable housing complex in the West Bronx, killing 17 people, including 8 children, and injuring over 60 people.

The apartment complex was home to a large community of Black and Brown New Yorkers, including West African migrants, many of whom were victims of the fire. And the owner of the building? Hot-shot developer Rick Gropper, who sits on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team for housing issues.

This fire was preventable.

New York City law states that landlords must maintain their rental properties at safe and healthy temperatures. For months before this tragedy, tenants submitted complaints regarding a lack of heat inside the building and a door that did not close properly. The complaints were ignored.

Had Gropper addressed these maintenance issues according to New York City law, the malfunctioning space heater would not have been necessary, and the self-closing door would have worked to prevent the spread of the fire. Most importantly, these people would still be alive and unharmed.

Gropper’s inaction, which caused the worst NYC fire in three decades, proves that he is unfit to act as a public official on housing issues.

Black people deserve affordable and safe housing. Black people make up almost half of the Bronx’s population, and the Bronx has an average poverty rate of 30% and the highest population of Black people compared to the other four NYC boroughs.

Racist policies and tactics—such as redlining and blockbusting—have made New York City one of the most segregated cities in the United States, with poverty concentrated in predominantly Black communities.

Affordable housing is a necessity for the working families of New York City and is essential to economic mobility for Black families. Affordable housing should not mean cutting corners and forgoing safety measures just to save slumlords a few dollars.

As made clear in Philadelphia and the Bronx, the government has failed to provide safe housing for us all, leading to residential fires killing Black people at more than twice the rate of white people between 1999 and 2019.12 We need strict enforcement of necessary safety measures such as fire escapes, up-to-code sprinkler systems, and operational self-closing doors for residential single-family, duplex, and apartment buildings.

Gropper broke the law and his promises to his tenants, resulting in their deaths. He should not be a leading voice for housing issues on Mayor Adams’ transition team, and we demand his immediate removal.

Color Of Change


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