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Burned Valley Cottage Home Had Illegal Apartments

Fire displaced over a dozen residents, including children

A Valley Cottage home was illegally divided into more apartments than allowed, according to Rockland fire authorities.

"It was a legal two-family, but somewhere along the line they added two additional apartments without necessary permits," said Gordon Wren, Jr., director of Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services.

The house—located at 61 Lake Road—is 107-years-old. Eight adults and nine children were displaced by the fire.

According to Clarkstown tax records, the home is owned by Sylvester Almiron, who also holds properties in Central Nyack and New City.

Wren said illegally zoned homes are becoming an "epidemic" in Rockland, and make combating flames and rescuing residents difficult for county firefighters—all of whom are volunteers.

"A fire is dangerous to begin with," Wren said. "But in an illegally converted home, you don't know what you're going to find."

Wren said firefighters are trained to first head into bedrooms, which can be difficult to identify in houses like 61 Lake Road. "You have people living in attics, family rooms," he said.

Monday's blaze began at 9:30 a.m. and cut through several stories of the house; authorities closed off Lake Road for several hours after the fire was extinguished to cart out burned debris.

The fire was caused by a space heater in a first floor bathroom, said Clarkstown Fire Inspector Stephen Ungerleider Tuesday afternoon.

"It appears to have ignited some combustibles," he said.

The fire was originally thought to have started in the basement.

Though the house was illegally zoned, it appears its fire equipment was up to date; the 911 dispatchers heard a smoke alarm trilling in the background during the initial emergency phone call, Wren said.

Residents of the home were temporarily sheltered in Playgarten, a day-care facility across the street, while firefighters hosed down the flames. Later, the American Red Cross stepped in to aid the displaced families, dishing out food, medicine and clothing, and helped to make reservations at local motels.

emetib April 03, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Correction: ALL of Rockland's firefighters are volunteers.
George C April 03, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Not only are these a fire safety issue, they are also a tax base issue. How many of these illegal 2+ family homes have kids in the school system, even though the owner is only paying taxes on a single family. This is a problem that no one seems to be addressing. They should have a amnesty period where you can come in and get approval but not a zone change - basically something that says I have a two family house that is not in compliance with the zoning and am disclosing this in return for paying taxes based on a multifamily. After that, go after ever illegal multifamily home. This is costing all of us in higher taxes and putting our VOLUNTEER firefighters in harms way
Kevin Zawacki (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Thanks! Corrected.
Watchdog April 03, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Owner also has another "2 family" in Central Nyack. Wonder how many rooms are in that home.? Appears to be past due on School taxes on hs primary residence since 2006 on Brewery Road unless that is an error. Wonder if he contributes to anyone's political campaign.
Jerry April 03, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Shame, shame, shame on these landlords. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but there is no doubt, this responsibility is with the landlord. Greedy. Do not perpetuate these illegal dwellings in other communities, and than live somewhere else.
NotA MouthBreather April 03, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Who is the owner?
Watchdog April 03, 2012 at 08:48 PM
http://town.clarkstown.ny.us/html/receiver_of_taxes.html Look it up Click VIEW TAX BILL and enter address
Watchdog April 03, 2012 at 09:32 PM
There should be big fines for this but the Town is lax.
NotA MouthBreather April 04, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Thanks for the info, Watchdog.
Kevin Zawacki (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 01:48 PM
According to Clarkstown tax records, the home is owned by Sylvester Almiron, who also holds properties in Central Nyack and New City.
KellyPal April 05, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Don't ya think the 12 mail boxes out front would be a dead give away !
KellyPal April 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Actually there are several more, it's a multi-level mail condo . haha
Angela April 07, 2012 at 05:32 PM
This is very surprising for Valley Cottage, but has anyone looked at the homes in Monsey! They are fire traps beyond this. That is even more tax dollars and fire fighter lives at risk! This landlord should have his other apartments looked at and the ones in Monsey. This is for the safety for children, elderly, and our fire fighters.
Watchdog April 07, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Angela, there are hundreds of illegal apartments in Clarkstown. Illegal immigrants occupy most if them. They work for the businesses that contribute to the campaign of Alex Gromack. Ckeck out the definition of FAMILY in Clarkstown and you will see where Gromack is taking us, besides to the poorhouse.His legacy will be a Cesspool and he will move to warmer climes to spend the $1,000,000+++he has I his campaign fund.
Watchdog April 08, 2012 at 04:27 PM
17 people in one home with Gromacks consent
Chris April 19, 2012 at 03:35 PM
This owner is on the Clarkstown Parks Board and Recreation Committe. No surprise there. He should be removed for having an illegal rental property. People could have died, especially first responders.

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