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Flatbush Landlord Indicted for Manslaughter in Connection with Fire That Killed Tenant

Evener Leon allegedly rented out unsafe rooms in an illegally subdivided apartment
Screenshot 2021-05-14 at 09.46.45
The site of the fire at 1776 Nostrand Ave. Photo: Google Maps.

A 62-year-old Flatbush landlord has been indicted on manslaughter and other charges after a fire in one of his buildings left one tenant dead and others injured.

Evener Leon allegedly rented out rooms in an illegally subdivided apartment located at 1776 Nostrand Ave., a three-story, two-family building with a commercial space on the first floor.

According to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Leon and his family lived in the second-floor apartment and the third-floor apartment was divided into four illegal apartments occupied by seven adults and four children.

The building did not have gas or heat as Leon stopped paying his utility bills years before the fire. Instead, he provided tenants with space heaters and they used hot plates to cook their meals, the DA's Office alleges.

On December 2, 2019, at 4:00am a two-alarm fire broke out on the second floor of the building, and spread to the third floor, according to the investigation.

Eight adults and five children were home at the time. Most suffered some smoke inhalation and other injuries as they crowded onto a rear fire escape to get out of the building, the DA's Office alleges.

Jean Yves Lalanne, 70, who lived in a small room at the front of the building, was trapped by the fire in what firefighters refer to as a "dead man's room," because once the fire engulfed the stairwell he had no way to exit.

There was no fire escape in the front of the building, and he was unable to reach the rear fire escape because of the layout of the third floor, the DA's Office says. Lalanne jumped from the third-floor window and fell to his death.

The Department of Buildings said Lalanne did not have free and unobstructed access to exits, adding there were no sprinkler heads on the second or third floors, and there were no fire-proof or self-closing doors on the third floor. Fire Marshals determined the fire was caused by a space heater cord in a bedroom on the second floor.

On Thursday, Gonzalez, together with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett, New York City Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca and New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, announced the seven-count indictment. Leon is charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree reckless endangerment and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was released without bail and ordered to return to court on June 30, 2021, and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.

Gonzalez said in a statement Leon was well aware of the dangers he allegedly created and allowed to persist, but "tragically and disastrously chose to disregard building safety regulations leaving a tenant with no way to escape the fire."

"His alleged reckless disregard for the law and his failure to protect his tenants cost a man his life. We will now seek to hold him accountable for his actions."