Housing advocates target cluster sites after toddler deaths

Family housing advocates are raising awareness of organizations that can help needy New Yorkers in the wake of a tragedy that left two toddlers dead in a Bronx shelter.

As News 12 has reported, two young sisters died in Hunts Point last week when a broken radiator unleashed a scalding burst of steam.

The girls and their parents lived in a cluster site -- an emergency homeless shelter provided to the city by its private landlord.

"People die in these buildings," says Anna Burnham. "This isn't something like, 'Oh, I am uncomfortable, or I'm cold.' People literally lose their lives."

Mayor Bill de Blasio says there is no connection between the accident and the apartment's status as a cluster site, but critics of the program still say cluster sites are plagued by problems. Before the tragedy, de Blasio had already said he planned an end to cluster sites within the next three years.

According to experts, cluster residents have little to no rights to fight for better housing conditions. They also say low-income renters, who do have such rights, are often harassed and chased out to make room for cluster residents.

Organizations like Coalition for the Homeless, Picture the Homeless and Banana Kelly are calling for permanent safe and affordable housing throughout the city. Other groups, like MFY Legal Services and Community Action for Safe Apartments, are holding workshops to help leasing tenants understand their rights and how to fight for them.

Activists are also calling on politicians to challenge wealthy landlords who allegedly neglect their properties and tenants.

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