Who owns 333 East 181st Street? Fire in Bronx building kills 17, including 9 children

Besides the deaths, at least 32 people suffered life-threatening injuries, officials said


                            Who owns 333 East 181st Street? Fire in Bronx building kills 17, including 9 children
To extinguish the blaze, which broke out in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors, around 200 FDNY members responded (GoFundMe)

At least 17 people died, including nine children, when NYC's deadliest fire in over 30 years ripped through a Bronx apartment high-rise on Sunday morning, January 9. Besides the deaths, at least 32 people suffered life-threatening injuries, officials said. The fire was blamed on a malfunctioning space heater that had been turned on in an attempt to ward off the cold temperature outside. The blaze, which broke out just about 11 am, was brought under control about an hour later. However, the damage caused within this time was irreparable.

“I heard a lot of kids yelling, ‘ Help! Help! Help!’,” resident Dilenny Rodriguez, 38, recalled. Rodriguez heard the screams echo hrough her apartment on the ninth floor of  the 19-story building at 333 E. 181st St. in Tremont." “It was dark. The smoke was really bad. Those kids crying for help,” she said. 

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Who owns the building?

The building was owned by Cammeby’s International Group, whose principal is real estate mogul Rubin Schron. However, it was sold to a consortium of three investor groups in December 2019. The building is run by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Rick Gropper is the co-founder of one of the three firms, Camber Property Group. The other two investment firms are LIHC Investment Group and Belveron Partners. The building in question was cited for over two dozen violations and complaints in the past, including for vermin infestation and faulty elevators. There was, however, $25 million in state loans for repairs. The structure, part of a complex initially known as Twin Parks, was built n 1972 as an urban renewal project constructed by the state UrbaDevelopment Corporation, which is now the Empire State Development Corporation.

To extinguish the blaze, which broke out in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors, around 200 FDNY members responded. The fire was caused after the space heater in question malfunctioned in a bedroom, and a door that was left open in the apartment allowed the smoke to spread throughout the building. Engine 48, which was the first team to respond to the tragedy, was reportedly short-staffed due to the pandemic.

“They only had four firefighters instead of the five they are called for because of people out sick because of COVID,” said the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro. Calling the fire the worst blaze in the city after 9/11, Ansbro said, "We feel this is an absolute case where staffing would have made a difference. Several of the first engines were in the same situation. If there was adequate staffing, the fire could have been put out faster, and people would have received medical aid sooner." However, FDNY officials maintained that the responding units were fully staffed.

A resident told New York Post that the fire alarm frequently goes off, which is why people might not have fled immediately as they were under the impression that it was another false alarm. “The fire alarm goes off in the hallway all the time, at least twice a week,” said the 18th-floor resident. “What do I do when I watch a movie? I put the volume up because it goes off all the time. “I don’t know if it’s faulty or what it is. …. People on the third, fourth, fifth and went about their day until they saw smoke." Fire officials will now be looking into the fire-alarm system.

A GoFundMe page has been created for the families affected by the fire. "We ask that you help us support the victims of this tragedy. All proceeds will be distributed to the families. GYO will distribute funds with M.S. 391 Bronx and the 2200 Tiebout Avenue Tenant Association (Tisha Hatch)," the page reads. Till the writing of this article, $207,642 USD had been raised from the $200,000 goal.

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