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NYC building in which toddlers died of severe burns has history of complaints

NYC building in which toddlers died of severe burns has history of complaints
A New York City apartment building, which the city rents to low-income or homeless tenants, had been the subject of numerous complaints prior to the deaths of two young girls stemming from a defective radiator.

On Wednesday, two-year-old Ibanez Ambrose and her one-year-old sister Scylee, were badly burned in their family's apartment in the Bronx after a faulty radiator valve caused a burst of hot steam that spewed over the girls' faces and chests. They were both later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

"The two kids essentially got doused with scalding steam, and they were still alive at the time. By the time they reached the hospital, they were deceased," a police source told the New York Post.

The girls' parents, Pete Ambrose and his wife Danielle, had moved to New York City from Maine about a year ago, the Post reported citing their Facebook pages. Scylee suffered from total anomalous pulmonary venous return, a birth defect of the heart, though it is unclear if the family moved to New York City because of her condition. 

"I saw the parents bringing the kids out, ­giving them CPR. Another neighbor called 911," neighbor Tye Moore said of the incident. "The parents’ reaction was horrible and heartbreaking."

The family lived at an apartment building that temporarily rents units to the city for low-income or in-need families. The family lived in a unit that was part of the program. The "cluster site," as the buildings are known, has been the subject of several complaints to the city's Department of Buildings, mostly due to broken elevators, the Post reported citing city records. 

The building's owner, Moshe Piller, was included in the city public advocate's list of 100 worst landlords in New York City. The building currently has dozens of open violations, according to Scott Stringer, the city's comptroller. Yet there are no open complaints or violations pertaining to the unit where the incident occurred, according to city records cited by the New York Times.

Building residents said heat in the units had become brutally high and that they had complained to the building's management, the Post reported.

"The radiator starts steaming and the walls get wet. It gets to a point where you can’t see anything," Keenaja Livingston, a neighbor of the family, told the Post. "You hear ‘pop,’ [and] the stuff under the radiator explodes."

Livingston said Danielle had previously complained that the radiator in her unit had been malfunctioning.

The so-called cluster sites that address homeless needs in the city have come under much scrutiny recently for their high costs and poor living conditions. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city would like to phase-out their use.

About 3,000 families were involved in the cluster site program as of a March 2015 investigation by the city that found many building code and fire safety infractions in buildings involved in the program, according to NYT.

De Blasio was at the Bronx building on Wednesday and later issued a statement reiterating his administration's efforts to reform the city's homeless housing program.

"We are in the preliminary stages of what is a highly active, multiagency investigation into what happened in this home, and whether there’s anything that can be done to help prevent such an unspeakable event in the future," he said.

Lettia James, the city's public advocate, said city funds should be withheld from landlords involved in the program until all of their units are fully inspected.

"It is unforgivable that the city continues to enter into contracts with providers who do not ensure that these apartments are habitable, and today we witnessed the lethal consequences of this ­neglect," she said.