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Tenants Of Bronx Building Evacuated After Fire Escape Fiasco Demand Answers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City is launching an investigation into possible violations in dozens of buildings owned by the Bronx landlord who removed all the fire escapes from a University Heights apartment building.

Hundreds of people also demanded answers at a meeting Tuesday night after a week of living in hotels or staying with family.  However, the property owner, Goldfarb Properties, was not present.

Last week some 200 tenants at 2400 Webb Avenue had to be evacuated because the landlord inexplicably and illegally took down all the fire escapes after his engineer filed improper permits.

"We want to be back in our homes as soon as possible," one tenant said. "What timeline are we looking at? That's what I really want to know."

But answers were hard to come by from a panel of FDNY and Department of Buildings officials, who were admittedly at the mercy of how long it takes the owner to build and replace every fire escape from scratch.  The permits for the new fire escapes were approved on Monday.

"We're looking at between six to eight weeks possibly, but, again, we're talking about construction," City Councilman Fernando Cabrera said.

Residents said the situation was unacceptable as many of them are elderly on fixed incomes or single mothers with children. They've had to vacate their homes and re-locate to other boroughs, move in with family or rent rooms in far away hotels while being given an allowance of $840 a week.

"What are we supposed to do? My hotel room that I'm paying for is almost as much as what I'm paying for rent," said tenant Delia Washington.

Taking all the fire escapes from a residential building is clearly a no-no, which could mean even more trouble for Goldfarb Properties.

"If you do one thing wrong or questionable -- or there's a transgression -- most likely you've done other things wrong," Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert Limandri told CBS 2's Marcia Kramer earlier Tuesday.

And that is why, sources told CBS 2, the Buildings Department and FDNY have decided to investigate more than 45 other properties owned by the company to see if everything is up to snuff.

"What's most important is that we hold them accountable," Limandri explained

At the time, the move stunned tenants and officials, and especially the FDNY's Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Butler.

"Somebody made a huge error, a huge error in judgment," Butler said.

"It's almost like premeditated murder," one woman said.

"I don't know what they're thinking," another woman added. "I know that it's insane."

Meanwhile, the company filed legitimate permits to restore the fire escapes. And even though it may take some time to fabricate new ones, the city is looking for action.

"I would expect that we see movement in two weeks, movement on the ground," Limandri said. "And then once we see that, then we can gauge how fast they're going to move."

Do you expect that this investigation will uncover more shady business by Goldfarb Properties? Offer your thoughts and comments in the section below...

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