Newly obtained records: Floral Park building repeatedly cited for safety violations leading up to fire
Safety violations persisted for more than a decade at a Floral Park building destroyed in an April fire, Team 12 Investigates has learned.
After our initial story about past inspections of 266 Jericho Tpke., the Village of Floral Park said they misunderstood our records request asking for building and fire inspection reports. The village has since provided Team 12 Investigates with annual fire inspection reports for the building dating back to 2012.
The commercial building on 266 Jericho Tpke. caught fire on April 17 and burned for more than day. Dozens of firefighters battled dangerous conditions.
As the smoke cleared, Team 12 Investigates started asking questions about building and fire safety.
Team 12 Investigates reviewed village documents over an 11-year period. According to a fire inspection report in 2012, fire inspectors noted several violations regarding building access, exit signs and fire extinguishers.
Digging deeper, Team 12 Investigates found these types of safety violations persisted year after year. The building was routinely cited for expired fire extinguishers, obstructed electrical panels and faulty exit signs.
In 2016, building inspectors found 11 violations, including sinkholes and roof leaks. A follow-up inspection later that year uncovered unresolved violations, such as missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
One year, fire inspectors noted that some corrections were still not done and that they were “unable to get in contact” with the building owner.
In the last fire inspection dated June 23, 2022, inspectors found items were being stored too close to sprinklers and cited issues, yet again, with fire extinguishers.
On April 17, the commercial building was gutted by a massive fire. Hot spots burned for more than a day and floors collapsed, creating dangerous conditions for firefighters. Three firefighters were injured on the scene.
Team 12 Investigates tracked down the current landlord to ask him about the buildup of safety violations at his property. Even with inspection reports in our hands, the landlord said he had no idea about previous safety violations.
“I’m not aware of this. I don’t believe I have that report so I’ll look into it, but I don’t believe we had any violations,” Frank Liu, the landlord, said over the phone before abruptly hanging up.
Building and fire inspectors are often overworked and understaffed. They say annual inspections are meant to educate landlords and tenants about the importance of compliance, even if violations seem minor.
Renee Marcus, superintendent of buildings for the Village of Floral Park, said they do everything they can to prevent repeat violations, but their authority only goes so far.
“The owner has to take responsibility himself, especially when they’re getting violations from us,” Marcus said. “They’re responsible to take care of them so we do our best and send the notices, but as a building department we can’t force our way in. We just have to keep sending notices to where we’re heard.”