Hempstead forms advocacy group after fatal fire

The mayor said the village will review fire code, aggressively enforce regulations and create an advocate for tenant safety. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Paul Mazza (Feb. 25, 2013)

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Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall, noting criticism from his political opponents, said Monday he would create a tenant advocacy group and try to get village apartment building residents to report unsafe conditions like those cited in a fatal fire this month.

Hall announced the creation of the seven- to nine-member Tenant Advisory Commission during a news conference on the steps of Village Hall with community activists and two of the candidates for village trustee. Luis Figueroa and Waylyn Hobbs Jr. are running on a slate with Hall in next month's election.

Trustee Livio Rosario, running on another slate, said last week that Hall had "failed to take responsible leadership in addressing the complaints and safety in rent-regulated buildings."

Hall said Monday that village board trustees had every opportunity to voice concerns over fire safety, "but they've chosen to do so now. They're putting politics before the people."

Each tenant-commission member would be responsible for a set number of the 186 apartment buildings in the village, and would get tenant volunteers to serve as "captains" in their buildings and coordinate safety issues.

The commission will urge renters to call the village's 311 nonemergency complaint number when the system becomes operational Friday, Hall said. "We're empowering the tenants to make sure they have the resources and support they need to keep the building safe."

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Village attorneys were still working on his plan, Hall said, and he will submit it to the board of trustees at its meeting next week, or at its March 19 meeting.

A Feb. 9 fire in an apartment building at 17 St. Paul's Rd. North claimed the lives of Guadalupe Ramirez, 37, and her 8-year-old son Fernando. Village officials and the county fire marshal later said the building had outstanding housing violations and there had been a delay in installing an automatic fire alarm system.

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