Tenant: 'Black Sunday' repeat possible at building

Tenants of an illegally divided Bronx building where two firefighters jumped to their deaths three years ago claim little has changed since that day known

THE BRONX - Tenants of an illegally divided Bronx building where two firefighters jumped to their deaths three years ago claim little has changed since that day known as "Black Sunday."

Firefighter John Bellew and Lt. Curtis Meyran jumped to their deaths from the fourth floor of the East 178th Street building Jan. 23, 2005. Rafael Castillo, Caridad Coste and Cesar Rios face counts of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the case.

Castillo allegedly overloaded an electrical outlet, which sparked the fire. Authorities say Coste leased the apartment that the firefighters jumped from and Rios owned the building. Officials say the apartment was illegally divided with extra walls to make more bedrooms.

Years after the tragedy, a resident tells News 12 The Bronx nothing has changed. The woman claims heating, hot water and boiler problems are persistent. She says residents often have to use space heaters to keep warm, and she claims the apartments are still illegally divided.

According to the tenant, many of the residents are illegal immigrants who won't speak out for fear of being deported.

The building has 265 violations on file with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the last of which was recently issued for a boiler problem.

Castillo, Coste and Rios are scheduled to go to trial in April. Prosecutors claim the illegally divided building hampered firefighter's efforts, confused the men and left them with little choice but to jump to their deaths.

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