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Blaze drives CB14 out onto 16th Street

Community Board 14 staffers were smoked out of their headquarters Thursday after an all-hands fire erupted in the apartment above their office. Although District Manager Terry Rodie and Assistant District Manager Doris Ortiz were back “in quarters” this week, their office at 810 East 16th Street still reeked of smoke. “We have a lot of water damage and the computers are gone, but we’re still here,” said Ortiz. “Right now we’re working with the city and the insurance companies.” In an ironic twist, the fire in the apartment above the community board office took place while an alleged squatter occupied the empty apartment. The woman, who wasn’t injured in the blaze, is reportedly the friend of a problem tenant, according to sources. “[The tenant] had left the apartment, but was reportedly subleasing it to her friend without the landlord’s knowledge,” said a source, adding that the cause of the fire was still under investigation. “We’re hearing that the fire took place in the wall, so it could be electrical,” said the source. “Whatever it was, it may not be the woman’s fault.” Officials said that the fire was sparked right before 1 p.m. on January 4. As the blaze gutted the upstairs apartment, smoke suddenly descended into the office, Rodie told members of Community Board 14 during Monday’s monthly meeting at Edward R. Murrow High School, 1600 Avenue L. Rodie said that she and other staff members were eating their lunch when, “Within 30 seconds, it seemed like a plume of smoke came down from the ceiling and almost touched the floor. “We had to really get out,” Rodie went on. “It’s a short distance to the door but, in that short distance, we did have problems with the smoke. But, we’re fine, we think.” The fire was rendered under control in about 15 minutes, officials said. The smell of smoke was so heavy that they could only work in the office for a few hours on Friday. They returned to regular business hours on Monday. The fire did cause “quite a bit of damage,” Rodie explained. “The ceiling turned into like a pudding. It came down and covered the computer monitors and printers.” Rodie said that in the short term the board is “trying to raise about $2,000” through the Office of Management and Budget and the borough president’s office to replace some of their equipment. The staff is currently in the room next door to the damaged office, she said, though the smell of smoke has them keeping the outside door open. “The sooner we get the other computer up and running, and get the room so it’s environmentally safe to go in there, the sooner we’ll be back on track.” Referring to the squatter situation, Rodie said that the landlord had approached the board, asking them to try to get the people living in the apartment above the board office out. They had scheduled what she called an ‘intervention,” but had postponed it because the landlord was ill. “We had to cancel it till the next day, and that’s when the fire occurred,” Rodie said.

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