Investigations

Rapid Repair work created fire hazard in home

Friday, February 15, 2013

There are disturbing new questions about the quality of work done under the Rapid Repair program.

Eyewitness News found electricity work done in one home did not even meet city codes.

In fact, experts tell Eyewitness News the fix created a big fire hazard.

Rapid Repairs has put 12,000 families back in their homes after Sandy.

It's a first-of-its kind initiative that has worked well, but not for everyone.

In this case, the city wanted to blame the resident for the shoddy work.

That's when Eyewitness News sent in our own electrician.

Days after Rapid Repair crews did electrical work at Roberta Klein's home, the problems started.

"High voltage popping, it sounded just like fireworks," said Roberta Klein, homeowner.

With the smell of burning wires in the basement, Ms. Klein called the fire department.

"The firemen came smelled it back here and said you're lucky you were home to immediately cut off the breaker because your whole house would have gone up in fire if you weren't home," Klein said.

A spokesman for the Mayor's Office which runs Rapid Repairs blames the resident for "having the electrical work altered by her own electrician" she hired to repair a doorbell and living room lights.

To get to the bottom of it, Eyewitness News brought in an independent licensed electrician to inspect the wiring.

"So would this be another violation, this old wire?" Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Jim Hoffer asked.

"Yes, yes," said Gary Raymond, an electrician.

"Not up to code?" Hoffer asked.

"Not up to code," Raymond said.

In minutes, Eyewitness News' electrician found old, salt corroded wires and electrical components hooked up, next to newly installed wiring.

"This should not be connected to this new box?" Hoffer asked.

"No," Raymond said.

"Is it dangerous?" Hoffer asked.

"Absolutely, because it got soaked under water, so salt water and electric do not work together. That's where the arcing is from," Raymond said.

That's why the city's own Rapid Repair work guidelines stresses: "removal of all damaged conduit and wiring".

"This is supposed to be cut back, totally cut back," Raymond said.

"These should be cutback," Hoffer said.

"Not hanging," Raymond said.

"Is it a violation?" Hoffer asked.

"Absolutely yes, you get an inspector down here this would be a violation, you can't have no wire hanging down like that," Raymond said.

"We have one, two, three, it's peppered, this whole basement with violations," Hoffer said.

"Absolutely," Raymond said.

Roberta Klein says she had concerns about the Rapid Repair work soon after they arrived.

"We have to do it fast and get out and do other homes, time is money they kept saying that," Klein said.

"A few violations?" Hoffer asked.

"A few? You got more than a few violations in here," Raymond said.

"Is it dangerous?" Hoffer asked.

"Yes," Raymond said.

Rapid Repairs has done work in 12,000 homes. The Mayor's Office says it has received just 200 complaints.

After Eyewitness News' initial report aired Thursday, Eyewitness News received numerous emails and phone messages about Rapid Repair work that The Investigators are now following up on.

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superstorm sandy, new york city, investigations, jim hoffer
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