More To Come From COVID Hysteria Leading To Deadly Bronx Fire

The deadly Twin Parks January fire in the Bronx isn’t just predictably normal, it’s rooted in what’s become routine neglect from both property management and a City government obsessed with catering to scientifically-ungrounded hypochondria. Public policy virtue signaling has once again taken priority over sensible, informed policies that actually keep people safe – like regular inspection of homes.

This one is a bit personal for me – I grew up in the Fordham area of the Bronx and I’ve passed the location of the fire a few times. It’s admittedly a thin connection but this story is an absolute example of the shared Bronxite experience of having our borough and its residents screwed over as an itemized expense in the business of keeping bougie Manhattan – and its proximate political donor class – feeling bougie. And somehow this always manifests as a housing catastrophe.

Why The Bronx Keeps “Burning”

The root of it is the Burning Bronx myth better described as a deterioration of the borough’s neighborhoods, hastened through slumlord capitalists and facilitated by politicians flirting with genocidal austerity. The industrial base had fallen out from under the entire City while poverty concentrated among new immigrants arriving shortly after our near-bankruptcy experience in the late 70s. None of that creates a bustling renter’s market which led to arsons, some for insurance fraud, but more importantly and widely also to mass disregard for building maintenance by underwater landlords. Boilers failed to work during the blistering winter, and tenants found more dangerous ways to keep their apartments warm.

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I can tell you through personal experience we still do. And it’s no coincidence that the same essential problem – keeping apartments warm because your landlord is too incompetent – caused this latest tragedy we’re learning more about. When the City hits the rocks it lands Bronx-first, and our typically older housing stock is the borough’s most sensitive vulnerability. We’re already facing health challenges apart from COVID, people’s budgets simply can’t afford both expensive and unstable housing too.

NYC has millions of buildings. They also only ever staff around 800 inspectors in the Department of Buildings. The Bronx in particular is home to a number of pre-World War II tenements, and 1970s-80s affordable multi-apartment construction. It’s a housing stock particularly susceptible to neglect: cost-controlled, decades-to-near-century old rental units in a prohibitively expensive city. You can see it’s almost predictable that Twin Parks, a 1970s built multi-family affordable apartment complex, would be the site of all of this.

It’s with that background, and the context of mass hysteria around enforcing evidence-lacking efforts to combat COVID spread and hospitalization that City officials thought it would be a great idea to reduce the building inspection force by about 10%. And to do what else but ensure the enforcement of segregated vaccinated indoor dining. Such a decision was made not only in the absence of any evidence that such segregation has any meaningful impact on public health endpoints, but evidence to the contrary: that COVID vaccination segregation is probably pitifully pointless.

The Clear Dangers Of “Well Intentioned” COVID Policies

This is the danger of making policy without empirical grounding, or worse, just to virtue signal. You’ll need to jump through magical hoops held by unicorns to quantitatively justify this decision. Seventeen people died to imaginatively save no one from COVID hospitalization let alone death. That’s just me applying the latest literature to what those inspectors could have conceivably been doing that day they should have been recognizing the fire hazards in Twin Parks. None of it could have resulted in saving 17 people from COVID deaths. Just because a policy seems benign or well intentioned on the surface doesn’t mean it can’t be deleteriously discriminatory at best or massively lethal at worst. Here we’re clearly experiencing the latter.

That these particular inspectors were scheduled to observe Twin Parks shortly before the fire, only to have the inspection postponed in favor of keeping restaurants segregated is illustrative of the City’s bigger willingness to throw working class, Black and Hispanic communities out in the cold if it makes well-off largely white political donors feel warm. Who doesn’t remember Stop and Frisk with its sub-1% gun discovery rate? That stat didn’t matter to the otherwise data-obsessed Bloomberg administration – or their donors, as long as a perpetual cloud of suspicion hanging over non-White men kept the walk home “feeling” safe.

With that in mind this is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. Public schools disproportionately serve low income non-White, immigrant and second generation children. We disconnected them from schools, shoved them back in with masks strapped to their face (for our benefit, of course, because the data demonstrates nearly no threat from COVID to these kids 10-ways-to-Sunday), and in some cases vaccinated them despite emerging evidence that the tradeoff of benefits to adverse events may not be worthwhile. Time only will tell how much we asked them to sacrifice in this bizarre rain dance, coddling the risk averse who could afford to live their entire life remote while protecting their offspring.

This theatre should have never happened, and its mortal costs will continue to roll in as a lagged result of our failure to keep sober, sensible, evidence-based policymaking at the forefront. Undoubtedly the costs will be imposed on everyone but the policymakers, and especially upon the folks most reliant on our City’s public institutions and services.

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