Town Board: Temporary Restraining Order May Prevented Tragedy in Shinnecock Hills

Posted on 11 December 2013

A single-family residence at 18 Greenfield Road in Shinnecock Hills, which was subject to a temporary restraining order restricting the occupancy of the premises, was the site of a massive fire and explosion on Wednesday, December 4.

“The efforts of the town’s code enforcement division to shut down this house and return it to its legal one family use prevented a massive tragedy” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “If people had been still occupying the basement at the time of the fire, there is no doubt we would be talking about mass casualties.”

Councilperson Chris Nuzzi, co-chair of the Town’s Quality of Life Task Force added, “When code enforcement executed a search warrant at the location in August, there were approximately 20 people living in the single family house. At least seven of the inhabitants were living in an illegally converted basement. Due to code enforcements investigative efforts, the town was able to go to Supreme Court and win an injunction and temporary restraining order returning the premises to its legal and permitted use as a single family residence and prohibiting all but one family, living on the second floor from staying at the premises.”

There are strict building requirements for having living space in basements,” said Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera. “In the event of an emergency like this type of fire, the proper structural configuration of stairs, windows and walls is vital to providing occupants with multiple means of egress to prevent being trapped by smoke and fire. The basement of this house was illegally converted and failed to provide any alternative means of egress for any occupant. Without last summer’s efforts of the town code enforcement division, town police and the town attorney’s office to build and win the case for the temporary restraining order, anyone down there would have been trapped and faced imminent harm.”

“In obtaining the injunction and temporary restraining order, the town exercised great care in coordinating with the Suffolk County Department of Social Services to make certain that a case worker was dispatched to the site to offer emergency housing services to anyone who was displaced as a result of the order and qualified for services and that transportation was available to get them there,” concluded Councilwoman Bridget Fleming.

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