An illegal social club in the basement of a massive apartment building in Mount Vernon — just six miles from the Bronx — could have been another Happy Land fire, according to Mount Vernon officials.
Late last month, Mount Vernon’s Fire Commissioner Teddy Beale got tipped to an unlicensed hangout set up in the basement of 257 1st St, underneath a laundromat and at least 20 residential apartments in the building above.
When Beale and local police raided the rickety joint, they found conditions that brought to mind the deadly Bronx blaze of 1990. Eighty-seven people died inside the Happy Land, an illegal social club, after getting trapped by a raging inferno.
“We got a report that there’s an illegal social club … under the laundromat. There’s bartenders, waitresses, one way of egress in and out. It’s an illegal club, they are not licensed … so, we’re going to see if it’s true or not,” said Beale.
Once inside and down the shaky staircase to the basement, Beale and his police find a cramped room with a makeshift bar, a few people drinking on stools, and a nervous woman making drinks.
“Hi, how are you everyone? Who’s in charge?” asks one of the officers. “Can I see your liquor license?”
Officers are seen on video confiscating the liquor amid dangerous conditions including a nest of electrical wires, a pile of combustible material (pictured) and a grate covering a window and preventing escape.
(Mount Vernon Fire Department)
After the woman confesses she doesn’t have one, Beale assesses the room.
“At this point, they’re going to confiscate the liquor,” he says.
“Back here is an electrical rat’s nest of stuff,” he says, swinging a flash light to a jumble of hanging cables.
He also points to a pile of “combustibles” that reaches almost to the ceiling.
In all the Mount Vernon fire department found seven violations: no smoke detectors, no carbon monoxide detectors, no liquor license and no illuminated exit signs or emergency lighting.
Beale also pointed to the one window above the staircase that had a gate across it.
“I have no idea why, that’s an illegal gate. You can’t exit,” he said.
Above his head, he noted exposed insulation.
“There’s no sheetrock … a spark or a flame could set that off,” he said, pointing to the residents who live a floor above.
“This place is a danger and we are very happy we were able to shut it down tonight,” Beale said.
Source: Ny Daily News