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Society

NYC Officials Shutter Furniture Store Illegally Converted to House More than 40 Migrants

February 28, 2024

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City furniture store that had been illegally converted into sleeping quarters for more than 40 migrants has been shut down by city officials.

The city Department of Buildings ordered Sarr’s Wholesale Furniture in Queens vacated due to “severe overcrowding and hazardous fire trap conditions,” spokesperson David Maggiotto said Tuesday.

The agency issued two violations to the landlord — 132-03 Liberty Avenue Management Corporation — for illegal work without a permit and for occupying the two-story mixed-used building contrary to city records.

Maggiotto said city inspectors found the building’s first-floor commercial space and cellar had been converted into sleeping quarters, with 14 bunk beds and 13 beds tightly packed on both floors and able to fit about 41 people.

They also found plumbing work had been performed in the building without permits and the basement lacked safe egress and had no ventilation or natural light.

No one answered phone numbers associated with the storefront Tuesday, but Ebou Sarr, the store’s owner, told WPIX that most of the people staying there were recently arrived migrants from his native Senegal in West Africa.

Sarr said he was charging residents $300 a month for a place to sleep as well as providing breakfast, lunch and dinner. He said as many as 70 people were staying there because they couldn’t afford a place to live after timing out of the city’s emergency shelter system for migrants.

“They’re my people. I have to do something about it, so I started taking them in,” Sarr tearfully told WPIX and other news outlets outside the shop.

The fire department said it responded to the address Monday after receiving a complaint about a large number of e-bikes in the rear yard that could be a fire safety hazard.

The city Emergency Management office, which has been operating the city’s emergency shelter system for migrants, said it is assisting the now displaced tenants.

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