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Terrible conditions identified in apartments before deadly Bronx fire

Busted smoke alarms. Broken ovens. Mold and malfunctioning exhaust fans.

Those are among the horrors identified by city inspectors during recent reviews of apartments in a Bronx housing tower before it became the scene of the deadliest fire in a generation in New York City, records reviewed by The Post show.

At least 17 people — including eight children — perished Sunday after a space heater sparked a fire that flooded the 19-story complex at 333 East 181th St. with deadly smoke.

The decrepit conditions were documented and ordered fixed by the New York City Housing Authority, which was tasked by federal regulations with inspecting 12 of the 120 units in the building because it provided those tenants with rent vouchers.

“When I moved here 30 years ago the building was nice. For the last five years the maintenance has been lousy,” said 69-year-old Tysena Jacobs, who lives on the 15th floor. “The building is full of rats and mice. The smell of dead rats was so overpowering you couldn’t breathe.”

Five of the apartments — nearly half of those checked — failed NYCHA’s inspections, which took place between 2019 and 2021.

Two of the units were on the third floor — the same as the apartment where the fire, sparked by a space heater, broke out.

Tysena Jacobs said the building was once nice but that maintenance has deteriorated over the last five years.Robert Miller

In Unit 3M, NYCHA’s inspection found no smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, the living room door’s plates were broken, as was the storage cabinet, while mold was growing on the ceiling and there was evidence of lead in the paint of a hallway wall.

The agency offered the family a transfer in September 2021 when the landlord failed to fix most of the problems for two months after the July inspection. A representative for the landlord said the company did replace the smoke detector shortly after NYCHA’s visit.

Down the hall in 3L, NYCHA’s review in July uncovered a broken oven and several rooms without a required smoke detector. Records show the landlord certified the repairs were made in November.

A third apartment was on the 15th floor, which Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro said was flooded by choking smoke in part because several doors malfunctioned and failed to self-close as is required by law.

There, in 15N, inspectors found the smoke detector was missing its battery. A representative for the landlord said in a statement the issue was fixed that same month but NYCHA did not certify the repair was completed until November.

Overall, the records show that NYCHA eventually signed off on the repairs to four of the five units.

However, tenants said that often problems would persist or quickly reappear.

“Any time we complained the smoke alarms in our apartment didn’t work, they would take weeks to come and fix them,” said 17-year-old Francisco Javier, who lives on the ninth floor with his sister, Gabriela. “Even when they fixed the smoke alarms, it wouldn’t be long until they broke again.”

Tysena Jacobs said the building was once nice but that maintenance has deteriorated over the last five years. Robert Miller

NYCHA inspected 12 of the building’s units in 2019 and 2021, and five of these units failed inspection. Robert Miller

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