Nearly two years after a deadly fire at an illegal Brooklyn SRO, the church pastor who owned the building was charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Prosecutors said Luckner Lorient, a 78-year-old pastor, ignored orders from the city’s Department of Buildings to vacate the three-story, wood-frame building at 1434 Flatbush Avenue, the New York Times reported. And despite multiple citations from the FDNY, he continued to run Eglise Baptiste Clarte Celeste on the ground floor of the building. Lorient also illegally turned the top two floors — which had been designed for one-family apartments — into SROs that he rented to 23 people.
In 2014, a fire broke out while most of the tenants were sleeping; many were overcome by smoke and some lost consciousness. More than 100 firefighters managed to get the fire under control within two hours, but one tenant died.
A subsequent investigation found that power strips and extension cords were present in almost every room and in some in hallways.
In a statement Thursday, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said: “This defendant was well aware of the danger of running an illegal S.R.O.,” and yet he “chose to ignore numerous violations and vacate orders issued over many years resulting in this devastating fire that killed a young man and injured many others.”
Lorient faces up to 15 years if convicted on charges, which also include reckless endangerment, third-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. On Thursday, he pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is being held on $1 million bail. [NYT] — E.B. Solomont