66° Good Evening
66° Good Evening
NewsNew York

South Bronx hotel officials call city 'reckless' in linking it to Legionnaires' outbreak

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella, according to the CDC. This colorized scanning electron micrograph with moderately-high magnification depicts a large grouping of Gram-negative Legionella pneumophila bacteria. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CDC

Operators of a South Bronx hotel believed to be at the center of New York City's deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak said Tuesday that city officials were "reckless" in "leaking half-baked information" speculating on its role in the flare-up.

The Opera House Hotel -- a historic former theater transformed into a boutique hotel that caters to "high-end travelers," according to its website, was among five buildings originally flagged by health inspectors for cooling towers linked to a cluster of infections.

Tuesday, hotel officials criticized an apparent breakdown in communication with the city, calling the lack of information about contamination "frustrating."

Glenn Isaacs, vice president of the Empire Hotel Group, in a statement, said his establishment was caught in "some game of one-upmanship between city and state officials" -- a nod to the political rivalry between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Asked by reporters about the hotelier's concerns, de Blasio said, "I'm sorry he's upset."

"I would think anyone who owns any of these buildings first concern would be for the health and welfare of their fellow New Yorkers," he said at a Bronx senior center he visited to discuss the outbreak.

Dr. Ram Raju, head of the city's public hospital system, said an early epidemiological analysis "looks definitely" like the hotel area is a nexus of the outbreak. The disease has killed 12 people and sickened 115.

No one has been infected since Aug. 3, though reports may take time to reach the city.

The city said Tuesday that an inmate at Rikers Island has been diagnosed with Legionnaires'. De Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton said the case is not connected with the South Bronx outbreak, a finding confirmed by a DNA test.

The hotel's complaints came a day after de Blasio and Cuomo gave simultaneous Legionnaires' updates with conflicting numbers, appearing as governments out of sync. But in a rare joint statement Tuesday, the executives and City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said they are coordinating on new rules for registering and maintaining cooling towers.

The council held a hearing Tuesday on fast-tracked legislation to catalog such towers citywide and set standards for testing, inspections and decontamination to prevent future Legionnaires' flare-ups.

After a conference call with health officials Tuesday, Isaacs said he had "better, if incomplete information" and still no confirmation that the hotel is the source of the outbreak. Test results on the hotel's tower are expected Wednesday and will show whether the hotel's cooling tower is the flare-up's origin point, Isaacs said.

Asked Tuesday if she has been able to stay out of the political fray, city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett sought to differentiate herself and her state counterpart, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, from the elected officials.

"I really have as my guiding star protecting the public health of our city," she said, "and I'm sure that's the same objective shared by Dr. Zucker."


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More news