EXCLUSIVE VIDEO 15 Left Homeless After Fire Rips Through Three Story Apartment Building on Drake Avenue in New Rochelle

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO 15 Left Homeless After Fire Rips Through Three Story Apartment Building on Drake Avenue in New Rochelle

January 28, 2014 - 03:42

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- 15 people were left homeless after a raging fire spread from the basement of a three story apartment building, creeping along interior walls, up to the roof. Flames were visible from the New England Thruway causing traffic to slow on the busy Interstate.

New Rochelle Firefighters had to pull back after gas lines broke and natural gas began to fill rooms below. With firefighters evacuated, a Con Edison worker struggle to shut off the gas. The value was frozen solid and did not initially respond to repeated hammering to free up the control to the buildings gas supply.

Once the gas was shut off, firefighters worked the fire from above in a ladder truck.

A second ladder truck struggled to get a water supply.

Once both ladder trucks were in action, the firefighters soon had the fire under control.

The building was fully occupied according to firefighters who spoke with Talk of the Sound. They said the roof was caving and the building was likely a total loss. Four families lived in apartments on the second and third floor. The first floor was a store front.

The fire appeared to have started in the basement. Working was going on in the building and there was some indication that the fire was related to the ongoing work.

The Red Cross responded to the scene.

Mutual aid was provided by Greenville, Eastchester and Yonkers fire departments.

There are 20 Comments

Martin Sanchez's picture

Just curious if Mayor Bramson was present at the fire to provide support to those who were displaced by the fire? Anyone know? Mr. Mayor?

Robert Cox's picture


I was there covering the fire at 52 Drake Avenue.

The Mayor was not there.

We try to cover as many fires as we can. I have never seen the Mayor at any fire scenes. I have not seen him at any police scenes.

In addition to your concerns, we can only wonder why he needs a taxpayer funded SUV. It's not as if he is responding to emergencies.

Given this rhetoric, maybe we can have him trade in his SUV for an Emergency Bicycle.

Since the mayor is a part-time ceremonial mayor, I guess the fires occur when he's off duty.

Prior to 2012, the position of mayor was a ceremonial part-time position. The part-time designation changed for the current term, 1/1/2012 - 12/31/2015 in that there is no part or full time designation. All members of city council are now classified as "elected" with council members receiving $33,968 and mayor receiving $88,971.

Sorry, Anthony, I stand corrected.

Ms. Heyman I only offer the information to show how the administration changed the part-time council positions. The positions are now skewed as neither part or full time. All that is necessary to qualify for health & pension benefits is 30 hours per week served and all seven members of council are eligible for benefits that full-time civil servants receive. The difference is that civil servants are able to retire, with benefits, after 20-years of service while council representatives receive full pension and health care benefits for life after only five years of service. This loophole of council representatives receiving full-time benefits after only five years of service is a choice by the administration and NOT mandated in the NR City Charter.

One former member of council did not achieve the required 5 years of service so the administration assigned her a temporary Homeland Security position to supplement her council service to meet the 5 year requirement and now enjoys life-time benefits ala NR taxpayers.

Under New Rochelle's City Charter, the Mayor has no executive power, as the Mayor is a legislator like the other members of the City Council. If the Mayor was present at the Fire, he'd only be an observer, as he'd have no on-the-scene authority.

The City Manager is the chief executive of the City of New Rochelle. Working for the City Manager, are the Fire and Police Commissioners.

So there is no meaningful issue regarding the Mayor being present at a fire.

A better question is, was the City Manager or Fire Commissioner or Police Commissioner present at the fire? And that is only meaningful, if it is thought that the fire was improperly handled by the NR Fire Department.

Which brings up the main question, Martin, are you accusing the NR Fire Department of some impropriety?

Or are you simply trying to manufacture an issue, where there is none? That's what it appears like.

Wouldn't it be nice, though, for the mayor of the city to make an appearance at a tragedy that has just taken place and to comfort the now-homeless citizens of New Rochelle. He doesn't need on-the-scene authority to show a softer, caring side.

I dare to believe that everything in New Rochelle is not political.

Thanks Brian for revealing the fact that under the NR City Charter, "the mayor has no executive power". The mayor has two defined duties; preside over city council meetings & present an annual State of the City address. The mayor is also recognized as the head of the City government for CEREMONIAL purposes.

Not a bad gig for $90,000 plus a 24-7 SUV, lifetime health and pension benefits after only five years of service!

Then there is the necessity of a $70,000 personal assistant to the mayor with health and pension benefits who is charged with managing the Mayor’s very busy CEREMONIAL calendar.

I wonder if the mayor used the City’s vehicle and the personal assistant to campaign during his botched county executive crusade?

Actually, the Mayor does have the unilateral power to create a city charter commission that can create city charter referendums. Leonard Paduano had done that, resulting in our current system of city council districts replacing our previous at-large city council system.

And the Mayor appoints two of our three City Judges, and members of various boards.

Until less than 20 years ago, the Mayor appointed the the members of the Board of Education, but that was replaced by public elections.

Anthony, the issue here is the Drake Ave fire and whether the Mayor had any obligation to be there. And the clear and accurate answer is that the Mayor had no obligation to be there.

Judging from your very partisan statement, no doubt if the Mayor had been at the fire, you would have accused him of doing so to advance his political career.

I am interested in issues more than in personalities. An executive mayor would have a reason to be at a major fire.

Anthony, do you agree with me, that our city charter should be amended so the Mayor would be New Rochelle's chief executive, with the Mayor no longer on the City Council, and eliminating the position of City Manager?

Once again your “facts” are not accurate. First, please quote, from the NR charter, where the mayor has the “unilateral power to create a city charter commission” since I could not find it. Second, it was a lawsuit by the NAACP that resulted in the court ordered council district system.

Anyone who follows TOTS knows how and why Mr. Sanchez developed his opinion concerning Mayor Bramson. Bramson attempted to browbeat Sanchez when Sanchez was a BOE trustee, similar to Bramson’s shameless attack of council representative Rackman. Then you question whether Mr. Sanchez is “accusing the NR Fire Department of some impropriety?” It is your partisan sarcasm that prompted my response.

You leave the impression that you know me when you predict what I would have accused the mayor of had he been at the fire. If you had any knowledge of me or took the time to read my many letters to the editor and TOTS posts you would realize that I have always emphatically supported a strong mayor. I believe NR voters should be able to elect the person responsible for running every aspect of the City.

As to the Drake Ave. fire; the NRFD performed at their typical proficient level to limit damage to property and protect the public. Kudos to Chief DiMeglio and the firefighters in the trenches!

NYS Municipal Home Rule Law, Article 4, Part 2, §36 states the following:

§36. Provisions for adoption of new or revised city charter proposed by a charter commission.

1. A local law providing a new or revised city charter also may be adopted in any city pursuant to the provisions of this section.

4. A charter commission to draft a new or revised city charter may also be created by the mayor of any city. Such commission shall consist of not less than nine nor more than fifteen members, all of whom shall be residents of the city. Original appointments to such a commission shall be made by the mayor by a certificate of appointment which shall specify the number of, and names of, the members to constitute the commission, which certificate shall be filed forthwith with the city clerk. The chairman, vice-chairman and secretary shall be appointed by the mayor from among the members of the commission. Any vacancy in the membership of such a commission or of its officers shall be filled by the mayor.

Once again, Anthony Galletta is demonstrating how proud he is of his own ignorance, and how ignorant is he of others' knowledge.

I will limit this specific posting to Mr. Galletta's ignorance of the powers of all Mayors in NY State, by documenting my accurate knowledge.

The powers of all NY State public officials is defined, expanded or limited in various ways by Municipal Home Rule Law, as well as by other NYS statutes and codes, and by the NYS Constitution, the US Constitution and United States Code.

The New Rochelle City Charter while defining some of the authority of our City Council Members, and of our Mayor and City Manager, is only one source of our local government's authority.

Public Officers of our counties, cities, towns and villages, derive their authority from NYS Municipal Home Rule Law (MHR). I highly recommend anyone who seeks knowledge (rather than posting myth or ignorance), should read MHR, as it defines the parameters of the powers of our various municipal public officers.

Under the NR City Charter, our Mayor is basically the single at-large legislative member of our City Council.

But NYS Municipal Home Rule Law (and other NYS statutes such as Public Officers Law) supersedes City Charters, similarly to how the NYS Constitution supersedes all NYS statutes and charters, and how the US Constitution supersedes all federal laws, and supersedes all state constitutions and state laws.

Municipal Home Rule Law provides ALL Mayors in NYS with the power to unilaterally appoint a City Charter Commissioner.

Mayor Paduano used that law to create the Charter Commissioner that created City Council Districts in New Rochelle, and eliminated all City Council Members being elected at-large, except for the Mayor remaining on the City Council as its one at-large member

It was the intention of Mayor Paduano's unilaterally appointed Charter Commission to remove the Mayor from the City Council, to eliminate the appointed City Manager office from existing, and to make the NR Mayor our sole chief executive.

Unfortunately, the NR voters approved City Council Districting while disapproving eliminating the City Manager and removing the Mayor from the City Council, and making our Mayor the Chief Executive of the NR government. As such, we still have an at-large City Council Member, the Mayor, who has real powers as a legislator but is perceived as a ceremonial Mayor, despite special powers unique to all mayors in NY State.

Regarding your misinformed statement, “Second, it was a lawsuit by the NAACP that resulted in the court ordered council district system”, you are confusing a second referendum that occurred after the voters approved Mayor Paduano’s Charter Referendum.

Mayor Paduano’s successful Charter Referendum was in 1991, the same year Tim Idoni was elected Mayor along with the four other at-large members of the City Council who had been elected under the 1933 version of the City Charter that existed at the time of their election. Because the voters had chosen to replace four at-large Council Members with Council districting, but had voted against making the Mayor Chief Executive, new early elections were needed for Council Members to be elected by district.

As Paduano’s Charter Referendum assumed that the Mayor would no longer be on the City Council, the number of proposed Council Districts had to be determined by still another credendum which occurred during Mayor Idoni’s first term. As such there was another, later issue regarding the number of Council Districts there would be, and that was the basis of the NAACP’s court action which I believe occurred in 1992, resulting in the creation of six rather than five Council Districts.

After that long-winded explanation, you are still misinformed. That was some response I must admit BUT if you read my post it clearly states; "please quote, from the NR charter, where the mayor has the “unilateral power to create a city charter commission” since I could not find it." As usual, you ASSume I am unaware of NYS Municipal Home Rule Law and as usual, you are incorrect. I am a personal friend of and grew up as Lenny’s (Paduano) neighbor. I am totally aware of what happened and while your explanation is mostly correct, we were debating the mayor's defined powers UNDER THE NR CHARTER.

In attempting to convolute the court ordered mandate to change New Rochelle’s at-large election system to its current council district system you flat out have it wrong. In fact, the Center for Constitutional Rights, on behalf of 12,000 New Rochelle African Americans, sued to eliminate New Rochelle’s at-large system as a way to ensure representation on the city council. This suit took place early in 1991. I will presume you will accept an article from the NY Times that accurately defines the circumstances surrounding the court mandated council district system

I am accurate when I state that under NY State law, the New Rochelle Mayor has powers not defined under our City Charter. There may also be parts of our City Charter than can be voided under the NY Constitution, NY State law, US Constitution and US law.

I presumed that if you were aware of Municipal Home Rule Law, that you'd have had no rational reason to make your argument based on our City Charter.

There are other powers of our public officers, as well as powers of the People, defined in MHR law, that are undefined in our City Charter. It’s worth reading.

Also important is Public Officers Law, which among its other interesting aspects, is the main basis for removing a person from Public Office if they do not live in the district, city, county or state they represent or work in, with some specific exemptions; or if they commit crimes, or for other reasons.

There would have been little basis for a successful NAACP civil rights suit against At-Large elections in 1991, as New Rochelle had previously elected an African-America, Joe Evans, to the City Council in the late 1960's. I believe it was later NAACP court actions that had an effect on reapportionment of Council Districts already approved by NR voters in one or two referendums.

Referendums do not exist in Federal Law, and are limited and more difficult to effect in NY than in many other States. So a Federal Court would be unlikely to Order a NYS municipality to initiate a referendum, but a Federal Court might guide a referendum already proposed or initiated or having occurred in NY State.

If there had been no referendum, and USDC SDNY determined an At-Large legislative body was in violation of the US Constitution or of federal laws, that Court would have declared the New Rochelle City Charter unconstitutional and Ordered NR to amend or rewrite our City Charter. I have never heard of New Rochelle’s City Charter being declared unconstitutional, although Court Ordered reapportionment of existing Council Districts has occurred a few times in New Rochelle.

The 1991 NAACP suit was independent of, and if anything supportive of Paduano’s referendum. I will research the basis of NYT article further, as it states nothing about the results of the NAACP 1991 USDC SDNY action, which I will look up in LexisNexis at NR library.

Perhaps Leonard Paduano or Ron Tocci or Elaine Waltz would like to comment, as they were all very involved in Paduano’s greatest achievement as Mayor, his Charter Commission’s referendum.

Brian, in your original reply to Mr. Sanchez you begin with "Under New Rochelle's City Charter" and that is what framed the debate and my responses. As I stated previously, your explanation is mostly correct but you have strayed off the original course you outlined. What you are wrong about is the fact that the NAACP's lawsuit is responsible for the current six council district system. The referendum you refer to would have gone to an at-large vote and that was a chance the NAACP felt they could not afford to take. Napoleon Holmes sums it up best in the article;

Suit Calls Election System in New Rochelle Biased

That step would only perpetuate the problem, placing the issue itself to an at-large vote, said Napoleon Holmes, the president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “That would put us back to square one," Mr. Holmes said. "We filed the suit because we can't afford that chance."

New Rochelle has a history of racial problems from the desegregation of its schools to two lawsuits concerning redistricting. We have debated the first and the second was more offensive, in my opinion, as the city council actually decreased the percentage of African Americans, in council district 3 the court-ordered African American opportunity district and refused to comply with Judge Briant’s demand. The NAACP settled for less than the judge’s demand and so it was ordered. Let’s not forget the march that included former councilwoman Rhoda Quash that resulted in resolution 205 to ensure that wealthy developers who were awarded city contracts employ minorities on a ratio that reflected NR’s diversity; a resolution that was disregarded on the Heritage Homes project.

I have no idea why you feel the need to call in reinforcements? You have presented your position with documentation as have I, TOTS readers are fully capable of drawing their own conclusion!

My reply to Sanchez was that under our City Charter, the Mayor has no executive powers, and that he'd have no reason to be at the Drake Ave fire, whereas the Fire & Police Commissioners and our chief executive, the City Manager, would have had a functional reason for being there. No one has yet contradicted that truth.

It was in response to you, that I explained that although the Mayor has no executive powers, that the Mayor does have powers additional to the other 6 members of the City Council.

I stated that those additional powers included being able to appoint two City Judges and appoint members to some boards, create and appoint all members to a Charter Commission and that until the late 1990’s the Mayor also appointed all members to the Board of Education. None of those are executive or administrative powers.

When you replied that you couldn’t find anything in the City Charter giving the Mayor the power to appoint a Charter Commission, I replied that power was provided to all NYS Mayors under the Municipal Home Rule Law, and that our Mayor’s powers originated not only with our City Charter, but also with NY statutes such as MHR Law I cited.

In the mid 1990's thru early 1990's, I was very much in contact with my friend New Rochelle NAACP President Napoleon Holmes and with Mayor Leonard Paduano, Councilman Fran Judge, Assemblyman Ron Tocci and citizen advocates Elaine Waltz, Teddy Webber, Kochumathen Babu and others, regarding the referendums to amend the City Charter to abandon the At-Large City Council, abandon the City Manager, and replace those with an executive Mayor and a City Council consisting of Councilpersons representing Council Districts.

I participated in many meeting over this issue at City Hall and other venues. I am certain I have a better understanding than do you, as what occurred to create our current NR government structure of a districted City Council.

The referendum that changed our City Council from At-Large to Districting was the one initiated by Leonard Paduano’s appointed Charter Commission. NAACP lawyer Randolph M. McLaughlin participated, along with many citizens and advocates, in the public discussions and meeting that led to the wording of the referendum, but Mr. was not on the Charter Commission, nor did he or the courts create the Charter Commission.

It is Leonard Paduano that we have to thank for that Charter Commission and referendum. Of course Napoleon Holmes and Randolph McLaughlin were supportive of Mayor Paduano’s Charter Commission but they did not legally compel the creation of the Charter Commission, nor of the Referendum, nor of replacing the At-Large City Council with one of Council Districts.

What the NR NAACP did accomplish in Court, was after the voters approved that part of Paduano’s Charter Referendum replacing an At-Large City Council with Districting. The problem was that only half of Paduano’s Charter Referendum had passed. The other half that was voted down, would have replaced the City Manager with an Executive Mayor while removing the Mayor from the City Council.

The Charter Commission hadn’t anticipated half the Referendum passing with half failing to pass. As a result, the voters created a City Council that had four Council Districts and one At-Large member. If the entire Referendum had passed, there would have been five Council Districts and no At-Large Council Members.

After that referendum, the NAACP was concerned that four Council Districts was not enough to provide ethnic diversity on the City Council, and advocated for more Council Districts as the way to assure ethnic diversity on the City Council. It is in that regard that the NAACP and Randolph McLaughlin successfully sued New Rochelle, resulting in another referendum that changed Districting from four to six Council Districts.

But that was after Paduano’s Charter Referendum had already determined that the Councilpersons, other than the Mayor, would be elected within Council Districts. Even with six Council Districts, the NAACP was concerned about ethnic apportionment, and has taken NR to Court several times over than, the most recent of which resulted in reapportioning the Council Districts in 2006.

I am not calling in reinforcements, I am asking that persons in the center of the 1980’s and 1990’s referendums, and who have direct knowledge, should comment at TOTS. Those people include Leonard Paduano, Ron Tocci and Elaine Waltz. I have no idea why you don’t want to hear the perspectives of those with knowledge, other than that you prefer your half-understood assumptions to facts.

Since you are hell bent on getting the last word I will state this is my last post on this subject as we are now beating a dead horse. Once again your verbose response confirmed what I have said all along. You are correct about Paduano's charter commission and Lenny deserves full credit BUT as you confirm, it was the NAACP,s lawsuit that resulted in the current 6 council district system.

I know there are many people with more knowledge than me. You, on the other hand feel your opinions are absolute. I have worked closely with many of the people you cite, know some personally, one was a neighbor whose business I was a patron of and I worked closely with Ron Tocci when he handed Noam his first defeat. None of that matters.

It's not rocket science, roughly 72,000 NR residents, roughly 12,000 African Americans; 72,000 divide 12,000 = 6. Six council districts would all but ensure African American representation on city council!

Robert Cox's picture

For what its worth...

Al Tarantino was at the 52 Drake Fire.

I guess all this talk of who is at fires IS having some impact.

Today, at the 470 Pelham Road Fire, Jared Rice was there (briefly). Al Tarantino, who had been in Manhattan, left New York City and was at the scene of the fire. Chuck Strome was there. The Mayor, apparently, did attempt to come to the fire although he did not make it to the scene.

In cases like this, I think Council people can be helpful especially if it is there own District. At the very least, victims/displaced persons did seem to appreciate seeing their Council Member at 470 Pelham Road Fire (Al).

So, charters and laws aside, I think folks appreciate when their elected officials are on scene to help in whatever way they can especially when the fire results in making New Rochelle residents homeless.

Martin Sanchez's picture

Brian, if you read my question, I had nothing to say about the Fire Department, who I admire. I did not intend to manufacture an issue. I simply presented a query about the tragic fire and wanted to know if the Mayor was present to provide support. As in emotional support! As in providing a symbolic "I care about you" to those that were displaced. Are you able to comprehend this. I think once you stop gagging on Noam's crotch, you will be able to read my question in better light.

So why didn't you, Martin Sanchez, ask if the Councilman representing Drake Ave was present to provide support? As in emotional support! As in providing a symbolic "I care about you" to those that were displaced. Are you able to comprehend this?

I think when Martin stops his hypocritical gagging on Noam's crotch, he will be able to perceive reality in a better light.