Bad landlords are ubiquitous as subway rats in NYC, but rarely, if ever, are such landlords charged with any crime. Housing court is too unwieldy, and justice is too deeply buried under so many tangled layers of bureaucracy.
Which is why it's so notable that one Brooklyn landlord has not only been charged, but actually pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide after the occupants of his illegally partitioned Bensonhurst property were killed in an arson attack in 2010.
Landlord Vasilios Gerazounis was not the man responsible for sending a paint thinner-covered roll of toilet paper sailing into the Bensonhurst building, where it ignited and killed five immigrants from Guatemala. But the building, permitted for use as one-family apartments, was revealed after the fire to have been illegally partitioned into six individual units. Firefighters spent three times as long trying to reach the victims than they would have without first having to tear through the illicitly-erected walls, the Times reports.
“For over 25 years, the defendants have been renting what were essentially deathtraps for profit," Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson told the paper.
Gerazounis will be sentenced to between one to three years in prison in February. His real estate company will also pay $1 million in restitution the family of a child dropped from a third-floor window during the ordeal.
The fire broke out on January 30th, 2010, at 2033 86th Street. Daniel Ignacio, who set the fire, attributed his actions to six bottles of vodka, and Satan.