The story about the Queens fire just gets sadder: Along with an elderly neighbor, three of Jennifer Gaston's children died in a dramatic Queens house fire. And Gaston's 8 year old son admitted starting the fire with a butane lighter. The Admistration for Children's Services asked Gaston to leave her two other children in temporary custody, but Gaston became hysterical. The ACS had received earlier, though unfounded, reports about Gaston, and neighbors are saying that Gaston didn't save her two surviving chlidren, as one was apparently at a friend's house.
The other big issue is how the home's most likely illegal subdivisions prevented firefighters from making more timely rescues (100 firefighters were used to stop the fire in about three hours). A friend says that while the basement apartment was not that great, many people didn't want to rent to a woman with five young children (Gaston and and uncle had been renting two basement rooms for $700-775 a month, raising her five children). One neighbor told the NY Times that the basement apartment that housed nine people was "like most of the basements in this neighborhood: a death trap. You have a thousand of them around here. Knock on any door. The landlord is greedy, and he doesn't care about nobody's life." The Mayor commented on how it's hard to inspect illegally subdivided spaces, but we'd wonder if he has other ideas, like ones for more affordable housing for the poor.