Brokaw Lane house owner says she was unaware of how many people were living there

Brokaw Lane house owner says she was unaware of how many people were living there
36 Brokaw Lane was left scorched and boarded up following a fire that ousted at least 13 people from the home. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The owner of the 36 Brokaw Lane home damaged in a fire in November, which resulted in the 13 occupants requiring treatment, said she was unaware of how many people were in the single-family home in an interview on Monday.

A statement of rental dated Sept. 22, 2017 says only five people — Santos and Maria Guerra, plus their three children — were supposed to be residing in the four-bedroom home.

But fire officials said 13 people were home at the time of the blaze, including eight children who attended Great Neck public schools. School administrators and people helping the families said the eight children were from three families.

“I just knew about Santos and Maria. Whoever else was in that house, to this day, I don’t even know who they are,” Sharona Hassid, who owns the home with her husband Rabin Hakimi, said in an interview.

Hassid said “the first few years were okay” with the tenants paying her on time.

But over time they got less responsive, she said, and sometimes she had to go to court to respond to a handful of complaints against the Brokaw Lane property having to do with garbage or a boat in the driveway.

Hassid added that sometimes the family would say a cousin was staying over, but never said anything about any interior renovations that might have occurred to fit more people inside.

An automated message for the number listed on the statement of rental for Santos Guerra, the home’s tenant, said that the “subscriber” is “not available or has traveled outside the coverage area.”

Hassid had reached out to the Village of Great Neck for help, she said, and they had directed her to take the case to court.

At the time of the fire, she and the tenants were in eviction proceedings, following a decision to try selling the house in the summer, she said.

Now though, Hassid said, her legal options are few.

“There’s nothing else I can do legally,” she said.

Hassid said she is still grateful that nobody in the home was hurt, and that her family has donated clothing and shoes to the occupants.

“My heart goes out to them no matter what,” she said.

Hassid and her family originally lived in the house in 2011, she said, but because there was a high mortgage on the house, they decided to rent it out.

A husband and wife signed a year-long lease from 2012 to 2013, before the current tenants signed onto an agreement, Hassid said.

It’s unclear at this time where the tenants and other people residing in the home have gone.

Representatives from the Great Neck Alert Fire Company and Nassau County Fire Marshal’s office said a faulty electrical outlet sparked the fire, which spread upward inside the walls all the way into the attic.

An older style of construction, featuring balloon framing, contributed to how quickly the fire spread, fire officials said.

The fire drew out 40 firefighters from Great Neck Alert Fire Company, a firefighter assist and search team from Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, ladder truck and more manpower, and an ambulance from Great Neck Vigilant Fire Company.

They were on the scene for hours, said Great Neck Alert Fire Company Chief James Neubert and Hassid, who had rushed to the scene when she was notified about the fire by a tenant.

The home had been the subject of two violations and numerous neighbor complaints, according to the Village of Great Neck’s building department, including garbage and debris along the driveway and in the backyard and deterioration around a side door.

The United Parent-Teacher Council and the Parent-Teacher organizations of the respective Great Neck schools raised over $36,000 for the families. Clothes, gift cards and other essentials were also donated to those effected by the fire.

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