A Flatbush landlord was sentenced to six months imprisonment last Tuesday for the 2019 death of a tenant in a fire caused by a space heater, reports The Brooklyn Paper.

Evener Leon, 63, was sentenced to five years probation by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun after being found guilty in May for the criminally negligent homicide of Jean Yves Lalanne, his 70-year-old tenant.

Leon’s building at 1776 Nostrand Avenue, between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, caught fire early in the morning of Dec. 2, 2019. And in addition to Lalanne’s death, six other tenants suffered injuries.

Following the fire, the Fire Department discovered the building to be awash in fire safety code violations. The building’s third floor was illegally subdivided into four apartments housing. Leon’s family lived on the second floor, and the ground floor housed a law office and driving school. Leon also stopped paying the building’s utility bills years before instead supplying his tenants with space heaters.

“This landlord’s unconscionable negligence cost an innocent man his life and left six others injured when a horrific fire broke out in his illegal apartments,” stated District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “Today’s sentence holds him accountable and sends a strong message to landlords who put profit over the health and safety of their tenants that violations of our housing laws and regulations can come with serious consequences.”

Faulty electrical wiring connected to a space heater on the second floor caused the fatal blaze. The fire was able to spread quickly through the building because there were no sprinkler systems or interior fireproofing, in violation of city ordinance. Lalanne’s apartment in particular was deemed a “dead man’s room” by FDNY personnel. The apartment had no access to a fire escape, leaving Lalanne effectively trapped and with no other options but to jump.

Leon was indicted in May of 2021 and pled not guilty. He was convicted of negligent homicide but acquitted on manslaughter charges. City records indicate he is still the owner of 1776 Nostrand and that the building presently has 37 open violations.

Space heaters have been responsible for a number of high-profile fires, leading legislators to draft new restrictions on their sale. Lawmakers passed bills in May requiring space heaters sold in New York to come equipped with thermostats, automatic shut-off features, and to be federally certified.

The city bills were signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams, but the state bill has not yet gained the signature of Governor Kathy Hochul. A spokesperson for the Governor said the bill as of now remains under review by Hochul’s office.

Kimberlean Donis

Kimberlean Donis is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn. She is a student at both London City University and Williams College majoring in Political Science, Art History, and Africana Studies.

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