ANTARES STARTED IT HERE:
 
a derivative of Blue Back Square version of redevelopment? 
New real estate gaming idea here.




Solar panels, other technologies, present new firefighting hazards in Connecticut
CT MIRROR
By Jan Ellen Spiegel  Monday, November 11, 2013

Those benign-looking solar panels -- the darlings of the renewable energy world -- may appear to be nothing to worry about as they turn sunlight into clean power, but it's a different story if you're a firefighter.

Solar panels can be dangerous, if not deadly, to firefighters because when there’s light hitting the panels, they remain electrified even if the structure’s electric service is turned off.  That danger was brought home in early September at a fire that destroyed a 300,000-square-foot meat distribution warehouse in New Jersey. According to multiple news reports, fears that his crews could face electrocution hazards from some 700 solar panels on the flat warehouse roof kept the fire chief in Delanco, N.J., from allowing firefighters on it to fight the fire more effectively.

It burned for 29 hours, arguably causing far more damage than it would have had the solar panels not been considered an impediment.

Panel safety and firefighting is a concern the fire service nationally is aware of. But electrical and fire codes to help remedy the situation have been slow in coming -- and in Connecticut, perhaps slowest of all.  And solar panels are not the only renewable technology that concerns fire services around the country. Connecticut, even with its lagging codes, has been training crews on multiple renewable energy matters.

“What we’re seeing is technology advancing at a much faster rate than it ever has in the past,” said Jim Carroll, the program manager of live fire training and technical rescue at the Connecticut Fire Academy in Windsor Locks. “It’s hard to try to even keep up, never mind predict what’s going to be the next thing that we’re going to have to face.”

The academy has been updating its programs to deal with multiple forms of renewable energy. A class on solar panels is planned for March.  While there has been no catastrophic incident here, the recent New Jersey case is further evidence of the need for some action, apparent since a 2009 fire in a Target store in California first pointed to the problem.

For fire departments, including those in Connecticut, that use vertical ventilation when needed –- basically cutting a hole in the roof -- the presence of solar panels that can not be individually shut down is a dangerous problem. It can sometimes mean there’s no place to chop a hole, and also possibly no place to even walk without risking electrical shock.

Standards are changing

A 2010 report on firefighter safety and emergency response for solar power systems by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research arm of the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), is spurring changes to the national electric code and the NFPA and International fire codes designed to lessen that risk.

The 2014 electrical code has provisions for a faster shutdown of the overall solar system and the conduit from the panels. But requirements for individual panel shutdown will not be likely until the 2017 code revision, said Capt. Matthew Paiss, a training officer in the San Jose, Calif., fire department and the go-to guy nationally on firefighting and solar and other renewable technologies.

Paiss said the 2012 fire codes have requirements for space between panel groups so firefighters can get across a roof, and it has stipulations for how systems must be labeled for firefighter visibility.

But Connecticut is far behind in its code updates. The state is currently operating on the 2005 electrical code, skipping the 2008 edition and, according to Deputy State Building Inspector Daniel Tierney, the 2011 code should be in place by the end of this year. But that 2014 code with the rapid solar shutdown isn’t expected in place until spring 2015.

The fire code is even further behind. Connecticut is using the 2003 international code. Tierney said Connecticut is skipping 2006 and 2009, but the 2012 version  -- the one with the setbacks for solar panels so firefighters will have room to maneuver -- also will not be in place until spring 2015.

“Connecticut has a very good and long, proud history of very strong codes,” said Jeff Morrissette, the state fire administrator. “While we may be a little slow in coming to the table and adopting, hopefully we’re better positioned in the end.”

Solar technology also raises issues of how to handle newer panels that look like roofing shingles and how to deal with the hazards from leaks in battery backup storage units.

“It will take a number of years for all of these code changes to be visible in the marketplace,” Paiss said. “What we hope is that the industry will understand the desire for these technological advances and start bringing them to the market prior to that time.”

Mike Trahan, executive director of the industry group Solar Connecticut, whose father was a Hartford firefighter for nearly 30 years, does understand. “I am extremely aware of this issue,” he said. “Because I come from a fire service family, whatever it is firefighters need in terms of fire safety requirements, our industry will bend over backwards.”

Turbines, fuel cells and alternate-fuel cars

Trahan said he’s met with the fire chief’s association and has offered tours of solar installations to the fire service. But he said part of the solution would be educating municipal inspectors. “Lots of times,” he said. “It’s the first time they‘ve seen one.”

Bruce Angeloszek, owner of CT Electrical Services and an electrician turned solar installer, said he has no problem with more regulation on systems, but warned that additional safety equipment will mean additional cost.

“It’s going to cost the end user more money,” he said. “It’s going to raise the price of solar and what’s going to happen is it’s going to be out of the market for a lot of people.”

Solar power is not the only renewable or alternative energy technology the fire service is confronting. Wind turbines pose hazards from a firefighting perspective as well as from a fire department’s role as a first responder in rescues.  With a generator and rotor high off the ground, there is concern that a fire could shoot sparks. And because turbines are often in remote areas, it may take fire or rescue crews a long time to get there.

“There have been several instances I know where these devices have caught fire,” Carroll, of the Connecticut Fire Academy,  said. The responders were relegated to making sure burning pieces fell down safely, he said. "They had to let the unit burn out.”

That said, the academy has added a lead climber program to help train fire crews to climb tall structures -– something they hadn’t trained for in the past -– using facilities at Lake Compounce for practice. While the training is useful for access to things like cell towers, it is also applicable to wind turbines.

Fuel cells with their flammable hydrogen source are also of concern, though experts point out they are easy to shut down, are in self-contained units and even if hydrogen should escape, it is very light and dissipates quickly. The gas is also among many hazardous materials firefighters regularly train for.

But the longest standing concern has been alternative fuel motor vehicles -– not instantly recognizable because they look like conventional vehicles, but with unique requirements for firefighting and rescue.  The first step, said Carroll and others, is figuring out if a vehicle is alternative fuel – and if it is, what kind: Electric, natural gas, hybrid, biofuel. The fire service has been working with the auto industry to make that process easier.

“We need to be able to recognize them as alternative fueled vehicles whether they’re sitting on their wheels, they’re on their side, they’re on their roof,” Carroll said. 

The second step is to determine if they’re running. The standard way of listening is not so good in the alternative fuel world, since there is little or no sound.  Then it’s securing the fuel source, which is often in nonconventional locations. In the compressed natural gas car on the academy’s training lot in the shadow of Bradley International Airport, the tank is behind a barrier in the trunk. And there’s the battery -– not an issue if it isn’t punctured, but even if it is, it’s liquid lithium, not the far more dangerous solid lithium.

In the last year and a half, the NFPA did firefighter training in all 50 states specifically on these issues with vehicles. An online training program based on it is now available.  But there’s a new component to the energy vehicle mix -- recharging stations for electric vehicles and fueling for fuels other than gasoline.

Not lost on the fire service however, is the irony that fire departments often use renewable energy –- especially solar -– to power their stations and operate equipment.

“What the fire service wants to do is to be able to support the consumers with this green energy, but also to be able to maintain their safety,” said Ken Willette, the manager for the public fire protection division of the NFPA. “The industry is aware of the issue and wants to support raising responder safety, so I think that’s all good.”


Loft Artists once again forced out
Elizabeth Kim, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 10:43 am, Friday, March 15, 2013

STAMFORD -- The Loft Artists Association, a nonprofit group that began 35 years ago as a colony of artists working in a bleak, abandoned factory in the South End, has announced it will be forced to relocate because of a steep rise in rent set by property owner and developer Building and Land Technology.

Lisa Cuscuna, president of the Loft Artists, broke the news on Wednesday during a meeting of the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. Since 2007, the group has occupied roughly 13,000 square feet of studio and gallery space spread across two floors of a 845 Canal St. building that is part of the Harbor Point redevelopment district.  After the meeting, Cuscuna said BLT informed her about 8 months ago that it intended to raise its rent from $15 to $24 per square foot, a 60 percent increase that its members cannot afford.

"We clearly need help to stay," she said.

John Freeman, an attorney and spokesman for BLT, said the company has found another tenant interested in using some of the space and can no longer afford to subsidize the artists. He declined to reveal the identity of the tenant.

The issue has raised questions about BLT's obligations, both legal and moral, to a grass-roots community organization that many credit with playing a role in the revitalization of the South End. Sheila Barney, a member of the South End NRZ, likened the Loft Artists to "pioneers" in a once struggling community. The group not only attracted artists to the South End, she said, but it also made a point of interacting with the community.

"To see them go would take a big chunk out of the South End," she said. "Hopefully, something will be worked out."

In an arrangement brokered in 2006 by then-Mayor Dannel P. Malloy and former Harbor Point developer Antares, the Loft Artists were allowed to lease space at 845 Canal St. at below-market rents. The artists were originally based at one of the original Yale & Towne factories that had been purchased in 2005 by Antares for redevelopment.  While both parties acknowledge the deal, there was never a formal written contract.

According to Freeman, who participated in the negotiations as a lawyer for Antares at the time, the agreement to subsidize the Loft Artists was supposed to only last five years.  Freeman said that upon taking the space, which had been renovated by Antares in 2007, the non-profit was expected to begin organizing the association into a "more viable" and "self-sustaining" group. He added that BLT had tried over the years to assist the group with its fundraising.

"We've exceeded our commitment," he said. "That property needs to become economically viable and right now it's not."

In addition to the Loft Artists, the building houses Dinosaur Bar-b-que, a restaurant chain on the ground floor, along with a yoga studio and two artists not associated with the Loft Artists on the second floor.

Freeman declined to disclose how much revenue BLT was receiving from the tenants.  Lina Morielli, a resident artist and former president of the Loft Artists who sat in on discussions with Antares, had a different account of the agreement. The mission from both the Loft Artists and Malloy, she said, was to establish something permanent.

"It was an understanding that we would remain a cultural entity of the South End," she said.

The five years, she added, was designed to be a period during which both parties would test out the arrangement.

"I think it works," she said.

In a Feb. 1, 2008 article, Malloy told The Advocate the vision for Harbor Point included the Loft Artists, "who, after all, pioneered the revitalization of the South End 30 years ago when they started to drag people down here to see their artwork."

Other than relying on memory, the Loft Artists have pointed to zoning regulations for the South End redevelopment district as proof of BLT's obligation. Section J includes a clause stating that "[c]ultural institutions, facilities and organization, including public galleries, artist studios and display space" should be allocated a minimum of 10,000 square feet of space.  The Loft Artists have argued the reference was directed at them. In response, Freeman along with Laure Aubuchon, the city's director of economic development, said the "cultural institution" requirement was fulfilled when BLT donated 1.5-acre piece of Pacific Street land for construction of the Waterside School, a private school that aims to serve under-privileged children.

"I don't see how anyone could argue the Waterside school not being a cultural institution," Freeman said.

But the Loft Artists have pointed out that schools are in fact addressed in a later section of the regulation, a sign that the two were seen as separate issues.  The Zoning Board had been prepared to take up the matter during its Monday meeting. But the subject was taken off the agenda at the request of Cuscuna who had requested time to negotiate with BLT.  Yet on Thursday she said recent discussions with Freeman have suggested there is little room for negotiation to accommodate the group at its current space.

She said she has offered a more modest rent increase as well as to hold weekend art classes for children in the community that would credit BLT as the sponsor.  Both were turned down. Freeman said he was planning to meet with Cuscuna on Friday to discuss moving the Loft Artists to an alternative space owned by BLT.

In hindsight, many of the Loft Artists members say that the handwriting had been on the wall. About a year ago, BLT refused to rent out studios as they became vacant. Of the 29 studios, about eight are now vacant. Use of the studios is subject to a general license agreement. But those have since expired and BLT has not renewed them, Cuscuna said.

Regardless of where they go, The Loft Artists has said that it cannot afford to pay market rents. The organization runs on a lean budget, raising money largely through grants as well as yearly membership dues. Its 42 members pay $150 a year. This year, it received about $11,500 in grants, most of which are directed toward its mission of performing community outreach by having artists teach and interact with the public.

"We're not a money-making venture," Cuscuna said.

As it did in the past, the group has once again tried to appeal to the mayor. Cuscuna said that amid previous worries that they might be asked to move out, Mayor Michael Pavia had in the past given assurances to the Loft Artists. "But not this time," she said.

Morielli said she believed it was incumbent upon the city to step in and advocate for the preservation of an arts community that brings cultural, dynamism and a creative class to Stamford.

"What we are really talking about is whether or not a city really supports the visual arts," she said. "This city will never be great without an evolved cultural hub."

She added: "They can have that if they want it."



THE SUPREME COURT CAUSED ALL THAT?
Major decision by the Supreme Court Thursday:  Next - fires caused by lightning strikes; power outagages leave 3 million on the East Coast in the dark in the midst of major heat wave.

Extreme heat + millions without power = Dangerous situation
By Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News | The Lookout
1 July 2012

Extreme heat warnings were issued for 14 states on Sunday, complicating an already dangerous situation created by a massive weekend storm that killed at least 12 people and left more than 3 million without power in the mid-Atlantic.

The National Weather Service forecast excessive heat from Illinois to Georgia, a day after a deadly "derecho"--or fast-moving "straight-line" of high winds--ripped through the nation's midsection, while record triple-digit temperatures throttled several major cities. Atlanta hit 106 degrees on Saturday, one of more than 1,500 U.S. temperature records broken last week.

"It is very unsafe outdoors for those susceptible to these extreme conditions," the weather service warned. The heat combined with moderate humidity will result in heat indices topping 115 degrees.

[Slideshow: Photos of the devastation]

"I'm very concerned with the problems created by the combination of power outages and severe heat," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. Close to a million people were without power in Ohio late Saturday, and Kasich said it could take up to a week to restore power in some areas.

President Obama authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief in Ohio, according to Reuters. States of emergency have been declared in Ohio, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia, where 232 Amtrak passengers were stranded for more than 20 hours after trees fell across the tracks on both sides of the Chicago-bound train.

"This is not a one-day situation," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said. "It is a multi-day challenge."

According to the Associated Press, it could be a week before electricity is restored in the D.C. metro area, where more than 400,000 were without power.

"We do understand the hardship that this brings, especially with the heat as intense at is," Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel told the AP. "We will be working around the clock until we get the last customer on."

In Baltimore, three fire departments that were set to close will remain open to assist with the clean-up. In Illinois, 78 inmates were transferred from a prison that sustained significant damage.

For those with power, "some major online services also saw delays and disruptions," the AP reported. "Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest resorted to using Twitter and Facebook to update subscribers after violent storms across the eastern U.S. caused server outages for hours."

Netflix and Pinterest restored service by Saturday afternoon, the AP said.

As is custom in the age of social media, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr users posted dramatic photos of the storm and its aftermath.



Court's decision more far-reaching.
Storms leave 3 million in dark
DAY
By JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press
Article published Jul 1, 2012


Washington - Millions across the mid-Atlantic region sweltered Saturday in the aftermath of violent storms that pummeled the eastern U.S. with high winds and downed trees, killing at least 13 people and leaving 3 million without power during a heat wave.

Power officials said the outages wouldn't be repaired for several days to a week, likening the damage to a serious hurricane. Emergencies were declared in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, the District of Columbia and Virginia, where Gov. Bob McDonnell said the state had its largest non-hurricane outage in history, as more storms threatened. "This is a very dangerous situation," the governor said.

In West Virginia, 232 Amtrak passengers were stranded Friday night on a train that was blocked on both sides by trees that fell on the tracks, spending about 20 hours at a rural station before buses picked them up. And in Illinois, storm damage forced the transfer of dozens of maximum-security, mentally ill prisoners from one prison to another.

In some Virginia suburbs of Washington, emergency 911 call centers were out of service; residents were told to call local police and fire departments. Huge trees fell across streets in Washington, leaving cars crunched up next to them, and onto the fairway at the AT&T National golf tournament in Maryland. Cellphone and Internet service was spotty, gas stations shut down and residents were urged to conserve water until sewage plants returned to power.  The outages were especially dangerous because they left the region without air conditioning in an oppressive heat. Temperatures soared to highs in the mid-90s in Baltimore and Washington, where it had hit 104 on Friday.

"I've called everybody except for the state police to try to get power going," said Karen Fryer, resident services director at two assisted living facilities in Washington. The facilities had generator power, but needed to go out for portable air conditioning units, and Fryer worried about a few of her 100 residents who needed backup power for portable oxygen.

The stranded train passengers were picked up by buses at a station near rural Prince, W.Va., after their train stopped at 11 p.m. the previous evening, said Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm.  The passengers were able to leave the train cars because they were parked at the station, and the train bound from New York to Chicago also had lights, air conditioning and food. Kulm wasn't aware of any injuries or health problems.  The buses will travel to the train stations along the original route, dropping off passengers along the way.

About 170 miles to the northeast in Morgantown, W.Va., Jeff and Alice Haney loaded their cart at Lowe's with cases of water, extra flashlights and batteries, and wiring for the generator they hoped would be enough to kick-start their air conditioner. Even if they had to live without cool air, the family had a backup plan.
"We have a pool," Jeff Haney said, "so we'll be OK."

The storm did damage from Indiana to New Jersey, although the bulk of it was in West Virginia, Washington and suburban Virginia and Maryland. At least six of the dead were killed in Virginia, including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree slammed into her home. Two young cousins in New Jersey were killed when a tree fell on their tent while camping. Two were killed in Maryland, one in Ohio, one in Kentucky and one in Washington.

Illinois corrections officials transferred 78 inmates from a prison in Dixon to the Pontiac Correctional Center after storms Friday night caused significant damage, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.  No one was injured, Solano said. Generators are providing power to the prison, which is locked down, confining remaining inmates to their cells.

Utility officials said it could take at least several days to restore power to all customers because of the sheer magnitude of the outages and the destruction. Winds and toppled trees brought down entire power lines, and debris has to be cleared from power stations and other structures. All of that takes time and can't be accomplished with the flip of a switch.

"This is very unfortunate timing," said Myra Oppel, a spokeswoman for Pepco, which reported more than 400,000 outages in Washington and its suburbs. "We do understand the hardship that this brings, especially with the heat as intense at is. We will be working around the clock until we get the last customer on."

Especially at risk were children, the sick and the elderly. In Charleston, W.Va., firefighters helped several people using walkers and wheelchairs get to emergency shelters. One of them, David Gunnoe, uses a wheelchair and had to spend the night in the community room of his apartment complex because the power - and his elevator - went out. Rescuers went up five floors to retrieve his medication.
Gunnoe said he was grateful for the air conditioning, but hoped power would be restored so he could go home.

"It doesn't matter if it's under a rock some place. When you get used to a place, it's home," he said.

More than 20 elderly residents at an apartment home in Indianapolis were displaced when the facility lost power due to a downed tree. Most were bused to a Red Cross facility to spend the night, and others who depend on oxygen assistance were given other accommodations, the fire department said.

Others sought refuge in shopping malls, movie theaters and other places where the air conditioning would be turned to "high."

In Richmond, Va., Tracey Phalen relaxed with her teenage son under the shade of a coffee-house umbrella rather than suffer through the stifling heat of her house, which lost power.
"We'll probably go to a movie theater at the top of the day," she said.

Phalen said Hurricane Irene left her home dark for six days last summer, "and this is reminiscent of that," she said.
Others scheduled impromptu "staycations" or took shelter with friends and relatives.

Robert Clements, 28, said he showered by flashlight on Friday night after power went out at his home in Fairfax, Va. The apartment complex where he lives told his fiancee that power wouldn't be back on for at least two days, and she booked a hotel on Saturday.

Clements' fiancee, 27-year-old Ann Marie Tropiano, said she tried to go to the pool, but it was closed because there was no electricity so the pumps weren't working. She figured the electricity would eventually come back on, but she awoke to find her thermostat reading 81 degrees and slowly climbing. Closing the blinds and curtains didn't help.
"It feels like an oven," she said.

At the AT&T National in Bethesda, Md., trees cracked at their trunks crashed onto the 14th hole and onto ropes that had lined the fairways. The third round of play was suspended for several hours Saturday and was closed to volunteers and spectators. Mark Russell, the PGA Tour's vice president of rules and competition, couldn't remember another time that a tour event was closed to fans.

"It's too dangerous out here," Russell said. "There's a lot of huge limbs. There's a lot of debris. It's like a tornado came through here. It's just not safe."

The outages disrupted service for many subscribers to Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest when the storm cut power to some of Amazon Inc.'s operations. The video and photo sharing services took to Twitter and Facebook to update subscribers on the outages. Netflix and Pinterest had restored service by Saturday afternoon.

The storm that whipped through the region Friday night was called a derecho, a straight line wind storm that sweeps over a large area at high speed. It can produce tornado-like damage. The storm, which can pack wind gusts of up to 90 mph, began in the Midwest, passed over the Appalachian Mountains and then drew new strength from a high pressure system as it hit the southeastern U.S., said Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"It's one of those storms," Jackson said. "It just plows through."

Associated Press writers Vicki Smith in Morgantown, W.Va., Larry O'Dell in Richmond, Va., Pam Ramsey in Charleston, W.Va., Norman Gomlak in Atlanta, Jeffrey McMurray in Chicago, Doug Ferguson in Bethesda, Md., and Rebecca Miller in Philadelphia contributed to this report.



Fire reported at Weston Gun Club
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Monday, 19 March 2012 00:00

A small fire was reported on Sunday, March 4, at the Weston Gun Club on Godfrey Road East.

Weston Fire Chief John Pokorny said a fire alarm at the club went off around 6:30 p.m., and firefighters responded.

Ashes from a fireplace caught the floor on fire, and while there was a fair amount of smoke, the fire was small and was extinguished quickly, Cheif Pokorny said.

He added there was little damage to the building.




Mandatory smoke/CO detectors moving forward
Ken Dixon, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 12:21 p.m., Thursday, March 15, 2012

HARTFORD -- Single-family homes would be required to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors under legislation that appeared to be approved by the Public Safety and Security Committee on its deadline day Thursday.

Inspired by the fire that killed three children and their grandparents in Stamford's Shippan neighborhood last Christmas, the bill, which next heads to the House of Representatives, would also require working detectors in occupied homes under renovation.

The legislation, however, was rewritten this week and potential penalties were taken out, losing some support on the Democrat-dominated panel. The bill appeared to have enough votes to pass, in a 13-7 ballot with five members absent, shortly before noon. The voting was to remain open until 2:30 p.m.

Bill Stemming From Tragic Christmas Day Fire Appears To Clear Committee
Measure Requires Smoke, CO Detectors In Homes; Penalties Dropped
The Hartford Courant
By DANIELA ALTIMARI, altimari@courant.com
1:26 PM EDT, March 15, 2012

HARTFORD

A smoke-detector bill stemming from last year's fatal Christmas Day fire in Stamford appeared to clear a key legislative committee Thursday, although a provision fining those who fail to comply was dropped after questions were raised about enforcing the requirement.

The measure, which mandates both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in residential buildings, received the endorsement of the majority of the legislature's public safety committee. A final vote tally will not be available until after 2 p.m.

The bill, spurred by the devastating Stamford fire that killed three young girls and two of their grandparents, will go a long way toward raising public awareness about the importance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms even if it does not penalize those who do not comply, said state Sen. Joan Hartley, the committee co-chairwoman.

Connecticut has long required multifamily and commercial buildings to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The new bill would extend the requirement to residential buildings as well.

Hartley, a Democrat from Waterbury, said the Stamford fire was a catalyst for the legislation. Members of the city's delegation as well as Mayor Michael Pavia, came to the Capitol last week to testify in favor of the bill.

Hartley called the measure "a consensus proposal," but some lawmakers still had reservations. Rep. Janice Giegler, R-Danbury, said she was reluctantly voting no. "We all feel for the tragedy that occurred in Stamford,'' she said. "But I would like to see that what we put out is the best that we can do."

An earlier version of the bill would have set a fine of $200 to $1,000 or imprisonment of six months or less, or both, for those who fail to comply with the requirement. Those penalties were removed after speakers at the hearing questioned how to enforce the mandate.

"If there is further appetite for those ... I'm sure we'll be discussing those in the future,'' Hartley said of the penalties. She called the bill "a significant step'' and predicted it would "go a long way" in raising awareness of the need for such early warning systems.

The bill also requires homes undergoing renovation to have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. The detectors can be disabled during the day when work is being done but must be operative at night if the residence is occupied.

The Stamford fire occurred in a home that was undergoing a renovation and appeared to have no working smoke detectors.




Improperly Stored Ashes Cause Fire In Trumbull

FOX CT
By DAVID MCKAY, dpmckay@ctnow.com
11:00 AM EST, January 22, 2012

TRUMBULL

Six people were temporarily displaced from their Elmwood Avenue home after it caught fire Sunday morning.  Firefighters said one of the family members smelled smoke around 5:30 a.m. and awoke the others before the fire had time to spread. The fire started in the garage and moved to the first floor of the home at 8 Elmwood Ave.

No one was injured.

According to Deputy Fire Chief Alex Rauso of the Long Hill Fire Department, the blaze was caused by hot ashes that had been improperly placed in a plastic bucket. To make matters worse, the home did not have working smoke detectors, he said.  Rauso, who cited the similarities between this fire and the one that left five family members dead in Stamford on Christmas day, said the fire safety issues across the state during this cold weather season have him concerned.

He said it was fortunate the six-person family survived, and implores residents to pay closer attention with safety precautions.


Ashes from fireplace caused Greenwich mansion fire

John Nickerson, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
Updated 10:47 p.m., Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The cause of a Monday afternoon fire in a multi-million dollar home on a private road in midcountry Greenwich was strikingly similar to the Christmas Day blaze that killed three young children and their grandparents in Stamford.

Deputy Fire Marshal Rob Natale said an employee working at 37 Khakum Wood Road lit a fire in the home's fireplace in the morning and then cleaned out the ashes because he knew there would be a fire later in the day. He put the ashes into a cardboard box outside the garage next to a wall, Natale said. The ashes had been doused with water, but hot embers remained.

The ashes sparked a blaze that raced up the exterior wall of the three-car garage and destroyed the living quarters above that included a den, bathroom and two bedrooms. No one was inside at the time of the fire.

"People just don't seem to understand that hot embers will burn cardboard and melt plastic," Natale said. "What the message we're trying to get out is if you clean your ashes out a couple of days after a fire, a metal container with a lid should be used and should be placed away from any structure or any dry leaves."

The Christmas Day fire in Stamford killed 10-year-old Lily Badger and her 7-year-old twin sisters Grace and Sarah, along with their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson of Southbury. Investigators believe Michael Borcina, a friend of the girls' mother, Madonna Badger, cleaned out the fireplace early Christmas morning and left the ashes in a box in the Shippan Avenue home's mudroom, sparking the fatal fire.

Natale said it wouldn't be a bad idea to wet down ashes with a garden hose.

"You can find hot embers in a fireplace days after a fire," Natale said. "The employee was doing the right thing by wetting the ashes, but he didn't soak them thoroughly and didn't place the embers in the right place."

On Monday, firefighters were able to contain the fire to the garage and no one was injured. The eight-bedroom, 12.5-bath house that sprawls 8,400 square feet, is assessed at $5.5 million and sits on 2.7 acres, according to the Town of Greenwich website.

When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, a woman at the home declined to comment about the fire.

Deputy Fire Chief Brian Koczak said Monday the first firefighters on the scene made a "great stop," by using a hose line to prevent the fire from getting to the main living area of the mansion.

According to Natale, "it did not take long and it did not take much," for the fire to spark. The blaze began about 30 to 45 minutes after the embers were left near the garage. He said it was "pretty windy" Monday and the fire caught an exterior wall, went up into the eves, and blew out a window in one of the bedrooms above the garage, while burning into the attic.

Firefighters were dispatched at 3:38 p.m. in response to an automatic fire alarm. As firefighters were leaving the station, the alarm company called to say the homeowner, who was home, had called to report the fire. Firefighters from the central fire station, Round Hill, Glenville, North Street, Byram and Cos Cob responded to the fire.

The garage and living quarters were extensively damaged, but three vehicles inside the garage were not. The roof of the garage burned off, but the rest of the house was mostly untouched by fire and smoke.

"If you had to look at a good side of this, no one was injured or killed in this fire," Natale said.

Koczak said he did not know the homeowner's name. Town records list the owner as 37 Khakum Wood Road Corp.


Why is this on the "fire" page?  Because of the link to Yale & Towne fire.
Harbor Point developer seeks to build second housing complex at former factory site

Stamford ADVOCATE
Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Published: 10:52 a.m., Wednesday, September 15, 2010

STAMFORD -- After leasing most of its apartment units at a converted factory, the developer of Harbor Point has unveiled plans for a second housing complex at the Yale & Towne site near Pacific and Market streets.

Building and Land Technologies is seeking zoning approval to build a six-story building with 329 rental units comprised of studio, one- and two- bedroom apartments. The residences will face the loft-style apartments at 200 Henry St., a six-story complex made up of three connected factory buildings once belonging to Yale & Towne. Yale & Towne is one of several development sites totaling around 80 acres in the South End that make up Harbor Point.

The developer presented its plans for Yale & Towne during a public hearing before the city's Zoning Board Monday night.

In addition to apartments, the proposed residential complex is to include about 13,628 square feet of ground floor retail and a 555-space parking garage. It will be incorporated into a larger community at Yale & Towne that is to be anchored by Fairway. The N.Y.-based supermarket chain is to open an 80,000- square-foot store at Canal and Market streets in November.

The project, which has 41 more housing units than originally envisioned, builds on a momentum of residential construction at Harbor Point. Thus far, more than 500 housing units have been completed within the roughly $3.5 billion mixed-use development. In addition to the 225 loft-style units at the Yale & Towne site, BLT recently opened a 15-story residential building with 336 units at 101 Washington Blvd., a development known as 101 Park Place.

A total of 4,000 units of new housing have been approved, which are expected to transform a former industrial, blighted neighborhood.

Robin Stein, the city's land use bureau chief, said BLT's focus on housing reflected the marketplace along with the firm's ability to come up with a successful product.

According to BLT, 80 percent of loft-style units at Yale & Towne have been leased. The apartments start at $1,532 a month.

"It just shows that the assumed barriers of people not wanting to live in market rate housing below (Interstate 95) have been proven wrong," Stein said.

But as another indication of the marketplace, Building and Land Technology has decided to build slightly less retail than had been planned for the Yale & Towne site. As part of its zoning application, the developer is asking the city approve a change in its general development plan from 330,000 square feet to 296,000 square feet of retail, a decrease of 34,000 square feet.

"Right now the market is not as strong for retail as housing," said John Freeman, the spokesman for Harbor Point, during his presentation before the Zoning Board. "We think once we have the housing the retail will follow."

But the company is also seeking permission to include 34,000 square feet of commercial floor area within another rehabbed factory building near Canal and Henry streets, saying that it had found a commercial tenant interested in renting two floors. The building had been slated for only housing and retail.

The Zoning Board is to deliberate and vote on the changes and final site plan at its meeting next Monday.




HARBOR POINT AS CONCEIVED BY ANTARES

First residential development of Harbor Point set to open next month
Stamford ADVOCATE
Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Published: 09:52 p.m., Friday, April 16, 2010

STAMFORD -- After more than a year of restoration and construction, three former Yale & Towne factory buildings will see new life next month as the first residential complex of Harbor Point.

A trio of attached, six-story, brick-faced buildings at 200 Henry St., originally built in the early part of the 20th century, will contain 225 loft-style rental apartments, comprised of studios along with one- and two-bedroom units.

As part of a gradual rollout, developer Building and Land Technology is seeking to open approximately 12 units a week beginning May 1, according to Matt Dalio, a representative for Harbor Point.  Market rate units will range from $1,532 a month for a studio to $2,145 a month for a two-bedroom unit, he said.

The project marks one in a series of large-scale additions of housing in the South End that is expected to transform the former industrial district. Harbor Point, a development spread across 80-acres and estimated to cost $3.5 billion, is set to build 4,000 housing units over the next 10 years, along with 400,000 square feet of retail space, office buildings, two hotels, a school, marina and more than 11 acres of parks.

The area received its first significant influx of housing last September, when developers Jonathan Rose Companies and Malkin Properties put up 50 affordable rental units on Henry Place, between Washington Boulevard and Atlantic Street.  Fairway, the supermarket chain based in New York City, is aiming to open at Canal and Market streets by the end of this summer.

Of the Harbor Point apartments on Henry Street, 11 have been set aside as affordable. The city stipulates that developers must generally set aside at least 10 percent of their units for families earning no more than $61,150, or 50 percent of the city's median income for a family of four.

The South End community organization CTE assisted the developer in finding candidates, who had to submit information on income and employment. In the end, 20 were considered qualified, according to John Freeman, a spokesman for Harbor Point.  Of the affordable units, the ones with two bedrooms received the most interest. But because there were only two, the city on Wednesday oversaw a housing lottery.

A total of six families applied for a two-bedroom apartment costing $1,141 a month. Those not selected were put on a waiting list.  Jocelyn Farias, a 22-year-old who works downtown as a technician for an eye doctor, was the first name to be called.  She said she applied after a relative saw a newspaper ad about the affordable units and told Farias about the opportunity.  Farias, a single mother, had been a sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Springdale with her 4-year-old daughter.

"I had a dream that I won," Farias said. "I'm not a religious person, but I'm a person with a lot of faith."

A transplant from California, Farias has lived in Stamford for three years. She called the city's affordable housing program "a blessing."

She said loved Stamford for its peaceful surroundings, adding, "It's a nice place to raise your kids."

The former Yale & Towne building, where she will live, was once part of a 25-acre site that contained 31 buildings, according to preservationist Renee Kahn.  Those buildings, like the one on Henry Street, were designed as long and skinny structures to accommodate assembly lines. As many as 6,000 employees once worked at what was the country's foremost lock producer.  After Yale & Towne moved from Stamford in 1959, different manufacturing companies took over the buildings.

Farias has started researching some of the history of the South End, saying that she read that the area where she will be moving next month had been "mostly factories."

Now, she said, "They want to make that the luxurious spot in Stamford."




Filling in the hole.

Harbor Point developer applies for zoning approval for mixed-use development south of I-95
By Elizabeth Kim, Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
Published: 10:15 p.m., Wednesday, March 3, 2010


STAMFORD -- The developer of Harbor Point has requested zoning approvals for an $80 million mixed-used development on a roughly six-acre lot bordering Washington Boulevard and the Metro-North Railroad platform.

Known as Gateway, the project calls for 474,000 square feet of commercial space in two 10-story office buildings and 200 housing units, of which 25 will be built in the first phase. In keeping with the requirements of the zone, known as the Transportation Center Design District, 12 percent of the residences will be designated as affordable.

The property lies just south of Interstate 95, at a high-profile nexus of downtown Stamford that includes the RBS and UBS complexes.

"It is our view that this corner is a very important corner as you arrive in Stamford," said John Freeman, a spokesman for the developer, Building and Land Technology. "Our development will complement UBS, RBS and Metro Center by completing the fourth corner at this key intersection, with a development that creates a real destination for rail commuters and pedestrians."

Led by Carl Kuehner, the Norwalk-based development firm estimates that Gateway will generate about $4 million in annual property taxes and more than $1 million in zoning permitting fees.

Preliminary versions of the project were first unveiled last summer. In October, Building and Land Technology won a critical approval for a request to change the city's master plan after announcing that it had a potential tenant for 250,000 square feet of office space.

The firm's identity has been a closely guarded secret. At the time, the only city officials who met with the tenant were then-Mayor Dannel Malloy and former economic development director Michael Freimuth.

But just last week, representatives for the developer and prospective tenant met with Mayor Michael Pavia and his new economic development director, Laure Aubuchon.

Building and Land Technology has said the proposed tenant is expected to create about 800 jobs.

Aubuchon on Wednesday called the meeting "very positive," but stressed the tenant was, at this point, only a potential one. Although she would not reveal the firm, she said it was "certainly somebody we would be enormously proud to have as part of the Stamford community."

Asked if the presence of a potential tenant should be a factor in the city's land use approval process, Aubuchon said, "It certainly makes the project a lot more attractive, but clearly the project still has to be decided on its merits."

"It doesn't color or expedite the process. We have to follow the rules."

Aubuchon's tempered response suggests a divergence from the previous administration. Last fall, Malloy made a rare appearance in front of the Planning Board, urging it to expedite its approval of the master plan change in light of the possible tenant.

The developer is now awaiting a crucial report from Pavia and his administration on whether the city should discontinue a portion of Henry Street, which falls within the proposed development site.

Last July, when the proposal went before the Board of Representatives' land use committee, representatives from rival developer Malkin Properties and South End neighbor Pitney Bowes objected to the partial street closure, saying that it would pose negative long-term traffic effects.

Norman Cole, the city's principal planner who oversees the zoning approval process, said the developer needs to have the Henry Street issue resolved before the project goes to a public hearing before the Zoning Board.

City land use officials said they have not had time to review the final site plan, which was submitted on Tuesday.

But Robin Stein, the city's land use bureau chief, said Wednesday he could not complain about a mixed-use transit-oriented development.

Stein, noting that the developer had razed several residential homes, raised concerns last fall about gentrification in his report to the Planning Board about the project.

During the public hearing before the board, Stein asked whether Building and Land Technology might commit to providing an even greater level of affordable housing than was required.

Freeman responded Wednesday that a lot of housing that was demolished had been derelict and vacant.

He added that the South End development Harbor Point is to include 400 affordable units, which is the most thus far provided by any private developer in Stamford.

The buildings, like those in Harbor Point, have received a gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's initiative called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development, he said.

As part of its ongoing conversations with the state Department of Transportation, the developer is also setting aside up to 500 parking spaces for train commuters. Building and Land Technology has proposed extending the train station's southern platform and connecting it with a walkway to its parking lot.

Asked who would finance this portion of the project, Freeman said that the developer and DOT were "still in conversation about it."

He added, "Everybody has been in support of the project."

Pending zoning approvals, Building and Land Technology hopes to start construction as early as this spring, he said.




Redevelopment: You can't win no matter what you do!

Harbor Point developer finalizes $145 million bond sale
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Published: 10:10 p.m., Thursday, February 4, 2010

STAMFORD -- The developer of Harbor Point announced Thursday it has completed the sale of $145 million in bonds that will go toward financing infrastructure improvements within the 80-acre mixed-use project in the South End.

Developer Building and Land Technology hired Stone & Youngberg, a private investment bank, to underwrite the long-term bonds. They were marketed last month to institutional investors.

"This financing is the largest of its kind since the credit crisis began, made possible by the project's location, private and public support, and experienced development team," said Ramiro Albarran, a managing director at Stone & Youngberg.

Of the bonds, $16 million were authorized under the Recovery Zone Bond Program, a federal stimulus program providing low-cost financing to shovel-ready projects. The bonds, which are taxable and due in 2039, will receive a federal reimbursement for 45 percent of the interest. Taking the interest subsidy into account, the net interest rate of the recovery bonds will be 6.875 percent, according to Albarran.

The remaining $129 million was raised through the sale of tax-exempt special obligation revenue bonds, a class of municipal bonds. Within that category, Albarran said $113 million of the bonds had a 7.875 percent interest rate and a maturity date of 2039, while $15.9 million had a 7 percent interest rate and a maturity date of 2022.

The city, which had reserved the right to approve the interest rate carried by the bonds, had anticipated an interest rate between 6 and 9 percent.

The developer is solely responsible for paying back the bonds. As part of its agreement with the city, 50 percent of any additional tax revenue earned in the Harbor Point district will go toward making bond payments, while the remaining half will go toward the city's general fund.

In a press release, Carl Kuehner, president and CEO of Building and Land Technology, said the financing would allow the company to "increase the pace of development" and "create jobs during this difficult economy."

The plans for Harbor Point include 4,000 units of housing, 400,000 square feet of retail space, office buildings, two hotels, a school, marina and more than 11 acres of parks.

Its first retail tenant, Fairway supermarket, is expected to open an 80,000- square-foot store at the corner of Canal and Market streets in August.

The project, located within walking distance of the city's train station, is expected to comply with energy-efficient building standards. It has received a gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's initiative called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development.

In the same press release, Gov. M. Jodi Rell called Harbor Point "a shining example of responsible growth."


Gentrification worries emerge over South End proposal
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Elizabeth Kim, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 10/11/2009 09:12:46 PM EDT
Updated: 10/12/2009 08:00:45 AM EDT

STAMFORD -- As the developer of Harbor Point moves to build on another significant South End site, the city is voicing concerns about the project establishing a precedent for gentrification.

Building and Land Technology has submitted a plan known as Gateway, which calls for a 500,000-square-foot office building and residences to be constructed on a roughly six-acre excavated lot bounded by Interstate 95, Washington Boulevard and Pulaski Street.

"This is the first time since the transformative redevelopment of the South End was first announced that a predominantly residential block has had its dwellings razed and the occupants displaced," Robin Stein, the city's land use bureau chief, wrote in his report to the Planning Board last week.

Building and Land Technology, based in Norwalk, largely has been redeveloping industrial sections of the South End. Although part of the Gateway site, known as the Manger property, was also industrial, Stein noted the block between Henry and Pulaski streets contained 14 multi-family homes built in the early 1900s.

Antares, the original developer of Harbor Point, bought the properties a few years ago. They were demolished earlier this year, leaving only two residential buildings.

"What message does this send to property owners and developers of the one remaining residential block to the south and the established residential neighborhood to the east?" Stein asked. "While presumably the owners' properties have benefited, the tenants are gone and forgotten."

The report was prepared in advance of a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday before the Planning Board. The board is set to review a proposed change to the city's Master Plan that would allow Building and Land Technology to build at a higher density.

John Freeman, a spokesman for the developer, said he does not believe the Gateway project would have an adverse impact on the neighborhood. Freeman said the plan is to make the surroundings more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly and add more residential units.

"The message that would come out of this would be a message to encourage smart growth and transportation-oriented development," he said.

As a further twist, the Gateway proposal includes 1,000 below-grade parking spaces reserved for train commuters. With the aging garage at the Stamford rail station set to be torn down, city officials and commuters have been anxiously awaiting word from the state Department of Transportation on a solution for replacement parking.

Freeman said the DOT asked Building and Land Technology to plan for the parking, but no formal agreement has been reached.

The developer has allocated another 1,000 parking spaces for occupants of the commercial and residential development.

Before the city's report was issued, the Gateway project drew criticism from W&M Properties, a rival developer, which owns two commercial buildings in the South End and is set to build another.

W&M has argued the Gateway plan would create a significant bottleneck in the South End. The firm has submitted its own parking plan to the DOT, proposing the spaces be dispersed among different sites.

Stein recommended the Planning Board delay its decision until the city releases a traffic study it commissioned. The study is slated to come out in a few weeks.

In the meantime, another interested party in the South End is set to weigh in on the Gateway proposal. Pitney Bowes, whose headquarters employs 1,000 people, has also expressed concern about the plan. The company is expected to release its own traffic study Monday.



Developers: Harbor Point on course

Stamford ADVOCATE
By Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 09/10/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

STAMFORD - Developers of the Harbor Point project last night sought to reassure South End residents that the massive project is on track, after an announcement last week that a new partner is managing it.

John Freeman, the general counsel for Harbor Point Development, the limited liability company that oversees the 80-acre project, and Bill Buckley, who oversees construction, told about 20 residents at a meeting of the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone community group that the project is on schedule and plans for it have not changed.

Freeman reassured them that he and Buckley, who have met regularly with the group, will continue to lead the effort.

"The team that you know and work with every day will still be the same team and the same faces," Freeman said.

Last week, Norwalk developer Building and Land Technology announced it has taken "sole control" of Harbor Point, which includes 4,000 units of housing, hotels, office buildings, parkland and more than 100,000 square feet of retail space. The plan was conceived by Greenwich developer Antares Investment Partners.

Freeman said Antares brought in Building and Land Technology on the project in February because the Norwalk developers had experience taking plans from ideas to construction.

Since then, "they've been doing a terrific job of getting things done," he said.

The limited liability company, Harbor Point Development LLC, still is carrying out the project, but Building and Land Technology, not Antares, now has sole control.
Freeman and Buckley told the group that Harbor Point Development has five foundation permits for the first phase, which includes a waterfront hotel, a residential building with more than 330 apartments, an office building, a restaurant and retail space.

The company should have building permits within a week and a half, he said. Some ground preparation is complete, including installing new gas pipes under sidewalks, he said. Other projects, such as remediation, regrading and widening Canal Street, must be finished.

Freeman said the developers have changed two aspects of its plan for the former Yale & Towne manufacturing site. A park, originally at the center of the residential and retail development, now will border Henry Street, and an additional building will be preserved, Freeman said.

Building and Land Technology said last week it has taken control of another Antares South End project - a proposal to build an office tower at Henry Street and Washington Boulevard.

Freeman, who is general counsel for that project, called Gateway, said rock excavation will begin soon. The zoning board granted approval Monday to rezone the land at the site of the old McCall's building for commercial use.

Most residents at last night's meeting were not focused on the shift in management. They were more concerned about traffic and other problems caused by construction, such as dust and noise. One resident said it's "a nightmare" to drive in the South End.

Freeman said Antares is working with the city to open Market Street to traffic to ease congestion on Canal, Henry and Ludlow streets.

John DaRosa, a longtime South End resident, said the biggest concern regarding the leadership change is that the project will continue without significant changes.

"People are concerned that developers will come in and buy us out," DaRosa said.

Sheila Barney, president of the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, said there has been no shift in her relationship with the Harbor Point developers since the change was announced.

"What we can do is stay involved and hopefully they'll stay the course," Barney said. "There's still going to be a lot of questions that people have. Are they going to adhere to what they started?"


Developer (as was done elsewhere in CT) asks City of Stamford to help fund South End public improvements
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Doug Dalena, Staff Writer
Published December 18 2006

STAMFORD -- The developer of a proposed South End redevelopment project is looking to the city for help in financing more than $160 million in public improvements.  However, some city officials, including Mayor Dannel Malloy, are questioning whether the improvements for Greenwich-based Antares Investment Partners 82-acre housing, retail and office project would benefit the public or the developer.

"I think the depth and the breadth of their proposal is startling," Malloy said. "We're going to take a serious look at what is fair and reasonable and what is not."

Antares' officials plan to meet with the city today to discuss a plan to build and widen roads, update sewer and drainage lines and create new park space using half the projected $21 million in property taxes generated by the project to pay for the improvements over 20 years.

"We see it as just a great opportunity for a project to create new revenue for the city," said John Freeman, an Antares lawyer. "It targets those tax dollars to public improvements in the South End."

A similar financing scheme exists in the city's Mill River Corridor, which dedicates up to 50 percent of the tax revenue from new development there to Mill River Park improvements.  Because Antares plans to develop so much of the South End in a relatively short time, improvements that the city would normally make over decades -- or would never make without the development -- must be done in a few years, Freeman said.

"In this case, we have an 80-acre property and we're really building a section of the city," he said. "It's not something that a developer would be expected to pay for."

In the South End, most of the infrastructure work would be done in the first phase, in which Antares plans to build loft condominiums and several large retail stores on the Yale & Towne factory site and a harborfront plaza surrounded by condominiums, a hotel, restaurants and office space.  Both sites need extensive environmental cleanup, an element the state has a financing program for that could be part of the proposal.

If the improvements are done but Antares doesn't build the tax-generating condominiums and shops, the developers, not the city, would repay the bonds.

"That's a critical element," said Michael Freimuth, city economic development director. "The fact that the city would not be exposed under the sale of these bonds is a major selling point."

The plan, which would require setting up a special redevelopment district similar to the Mill River Corridor on the 82 acres Antares owns, would have to be approved by the state legislature and by city boards, Freimuth said.  Because some of the projects are included in the city's master plan, some could be partially financed using federal and state money that the city has requested or planned to request, Freimuth added.

The proposal is promising, but city officials are just starting to evaluate which projects are public improvements and which ones would primarily benefit the developer and other investors.  Malloy said some level of public investment is appropriate because the city has helped jump start other major development projects, citing its construction of the parking garage for the Stamford Town Center mall and use of eminent domain power for urban redevelopment downtown.

South End infrastructure needs associated with Harbor Point project

* $35 million: Roads, sidewalks, landscaping

* $32 million: Sewer lines, storm drains, gas, electric and traffic signals

* $26 million: Public parks, open space, hurricane wall improvements, waterfront access

* $47 million: Public parking

* Unknown: Environmental cleanup

* Unknown: Seawall and harbor dredging

* Soft costs (design, planning, legal): About 15 percent of total

Source: Stamford economic development director, based on Antares submissions



And in Greenwich...
Antares to evict tenants; Deadline passes for 16 residents
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published February 28 2007

Antares Real Estate is seeking to evict 16 tenants from two western Greenwich complexes undergoing condominium conversion, court records show.

Antares told the younger tenants about a year ago that they could not continue to rent at the former Putnam Green and Weaver's Hill and would have to buy their units or move out. The properties' new names are Greenwich Place and Greenwich Oaks.

Unlike seniors and disabled tenants, who under the law can continue renting their apartments for the rest of their lives, these tenants have fewer legal options.

The nine-month waiting period has expired for these 16 tenants, according to Antares, which filed eviction notices earlier this month. One tenant appears to have since moved, and two others, who also are accused of not paying rent, have not retained lawyers. The other 13 are represented by Greenwich lawyer John Vecchiolla.

Vecchiolla is also representing seniors suing Antares because they say the firm is excessively raising their rents -- with the hike in several cases exceeding 70 percent, according to that lawsuit. Antares said the rent increases are to pay for construction improvements and to bring the traditionally low rents at the complexes to the market rates charged for similar units in town. Rents had previously ranged from $1,200 to $3,600.

Vecchiolla could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a couple of tenants served with eviction notices are putting up a fight because they like where they live.

"I've been here 12 years as a renter," Putnam Green tenant Paul Sylvester said. "It's been a great place to live, so I think that's why a lot of people are hanging in with it."

A couple of the tenants said they would be willing to purchase their units, but not at the price Antares was offering them. The law requires Antares to initially offer the units to tenants at a price lower than to the public, but these tenants said the firm gave them higher price quotes.

Early last year, Antares told tenants they could buy their units at a 10 percent discount. At the time, the expected market price was advertised as $600,000 to $2 million. During the course of the year, the firm began lowering the prices but, according to a couple of tenants involved in the lawsuit, the price offered to tenants remained more than what Antares marketed to the public.

"We want things done within the statute of the law," tenant Cathy Jacobson said. "If things were done properly, we don't have a case."

Jacobson referred to an advertisement in the Oct. 20 issue of Greenwich Time in which Antares advertised one-bedroom units as starting at $405,000, two-bedroom units from $515,000 and three-bedroom units from $660,000. She said she would be willing to buy her unit at 20 percent off those advertised prices.

"If it was done properly, we might consider it," Jacobson said. "We might consider it, but as things are done now, absolutely not. We have a case."

Antares' Stamford lawyer, Rich Castiglioni, said the firm is only obligated to offer the discounted price during the first few months after tenants are informed of the planned condominium conversion.

"Once the exclusionary offering period expires, Antares is free to market the units as they see fit," Castiglioni said, adding tenants cannot return to the firm and tell them they want to purchase the units at lower prices. "They have no statutory protection to continue to purchase on their whim at discounted prices."

The tenants in their lawsuit also claim Antares did not follow state statute when informing them of the condominium conversion, and as a result it may be unclear when the exclusionary period expired.

Castiglioni replied: "Antares has followed the letter of the law."



7 lawsuits target developer for fire in South End
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Zach Lowe, Staff Writer
January 7, 2008

STAMFORD - A developer planning an 82-acre project in the South End is the subject of seven lawsuits for failing to have a working sprinkler system in part of the Yale & Towne complex that burned to the ground in a six-alarm fire last year, court records show.

The April 3 fire, the biggest in city history, destroyed eight businesses and caused tens of millions in damage to the complex in Building 15 at 735 Canal St.

The lawsuits name several other defendants, including the city and the owner of the piano shop where the blaze started. The suits do not mention specific amounts, only that the plaintiffs are seeking more than $15,000 in damages in each suit - the maximum amount they are required to disclose. They likely seek many times that amount, experts said.  The developer, Antares of Greenwich, knew the sprinkler system was broken when it purchased the property from Heyman Properties in 2005, according to Antares officials and city fire inspectors.

Its failure to repair the system showed "reckless disregard for the safety of others" and violated state fire codes, one lawsuit said.

Peter Fay, an attorney representing Antares, said he could not comment on pending litigation.  Antares officials have said they planned to fix the sprinkler system last summer. The blaze nixed the plans.  Antares said the prospect of paying millions in legal fees and payouts to victims would not derail its plan to redevelop the South End.

The project is "on track and moving forward," said John Freeman, general counsel and senior vice president for Antares.  Antares expects to make its final plans public this year, Freeman said.

The sprinkler system broke in the mid-1990s, when Heyman owned the property. Heyman is named in two lawsuits, one filed by an insurance company and a second class-action suit filed on behalf of nearly 100 antiques dealers who rented space in the Stamford Antiques Center, records show.  Heyman's attorneys filed papers claiming clients who leased space signed agreements saying Heyman could not be held liable for any fire in a rented property.

Water in sprinkler system pipes froze in the mid-1990s when Heyman shut down heat to the building, which was vacant at the time.

When the ice melted, the pipes cracked open and rusted, fire officials concluded in their investigation. Huge holes opened, water pressure fell and the system became so useless that Heyman shut it down, according to records of city fire inspections.  Heyman did not repair the system when tenants late moved in.  Antares never did, either. But company officials said they would have last summer if they had had the chance. They were waiting for warm weather because they needed to turn off the heat to make the repairs.

The broken section of the system was over Haller Piano, a small repair shop where Paul Haller kept flammable polishes and other chemicals, court records show.  The fire started on a work bench in Haller's shop. Officials are not sure exactly what ignited the chemicals. Six of the seven suits name Haller as a defendant, claiming he did not store the chemicals properly.  Haller, who owns another shop in Darien, has never commented on the blaze and did not return a call seeking comment.

His attorney denied the allegations in court papers.

The city is named in four lawsuits because it did not inspect the site each year as required by state law. City records show the last formal fire inspection was in 2002.  Chief Fire Marshal Barry Callahan said last year that Stamford's nine marshals could not keep up with the rising number of buildings requiring annual inspections.  Marshals inspected 99 percent of the required 3,600 structures in 2001 but only 80 percent of the 6,000 required buildings in 2005-06, records show.

"It's just a physical impossibility" to hit all the required buildings, Callahan has said.

City marshals did brief "walk-throughs" in every new business in the complex before each one opened, but those are not formal investigations, records show.  Full investigations rarely involve checking sprinklers, city officials said. Property owners typically hire private experts for sprinkler checks.

"I think we're named mostly because we're perceived as having deep pockets and not because we have any real liability," said Thomas Cassone, the city's top attorney. "That's not the kind of thing that inspires us to settle lawsuits."

Copyright © 2008, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.


International News Photo (New York). Detroit, Michigan. "Police officers removing sit-down strikers from the Yale and Towne Manufacturing plant."

CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1937 Mar.? - in the LC-USF34- 007905-ZB

Facing eviction, artists look to stay in South End
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Doug Dalena, Staff Writer
Published December 26 2006

STAMFORD -- The artists, antiques dealers and other tenants who colonized the former Yale & Towne factory complex have to be out by the end of June, said the developer who plans to build condominiums and large retail stores there.

The plan has raised concerns that the city will lose artistic talent that draws people to the South End. But the developer, Antares Investment Partners, may step in as a landlord to help the artists relocate in the South End.

Antares may find and lease space outside the Yale & Towne complex, then outfit it and sublease studio space to the artists, said Shelley Denning, president of the Loft Artists Association, and Antares Chief Operating Officer Bruce Macleod.

Both said no plan has been agreed on, but Antares and the artists will look at commercial space in the South End next month.

"We think that it's a good use to keep in the South End," Macleod said. "They're kind of a cottage industry."

It is not clear whether Antares will be able to provide space at rents the artists can pay, Macleod said.

"We don't know what we can rent for; we don't know who's going to bear the cost to subdivide the space," he said.

The artists group has about 60 members, Denning said. About 25 artists rent studio space from Antares in the Henry Street factory building, which the Greenwich development company plans to gut and turn into loft condominiums.

At one time, 35 or 40 artists rented space in the six-story building, she said, but many already moved out. About 20 have said they would rent space if Antares finds it, Denning said, even if it means paying more in rent than the roughly $7 to $12 per square foot they pay Antares now.

Others plan to take cheaper space in Norwalk or Bridgeport or already have, she said.

The goal is to find space that the artists can rent for about $15 per square foot, Denning and Macleod said.

The 20-acre Yale & Towne property is part of a massive development proposal that includes demolishing nearly all of the former factory buildings and building condominiums, apartments, hotels and stores on that site and another 48 acres near the west branch of Stamford Harbor.

Antares shelved plans to build housing on the 14-acre Yacht Haven marina site south of the hurricane barrier after city officials panned the idea. It is not clear whether the developer plans to enhance marina operations.

Antares plans to demolish all but two of the buildings on the Yale & Towne site, bordered by Pacific, Market, Canal and Henry streets. The remaining two, one on Market Street that contains a police substation and a six-story factory building on Henry Street, would remain.

In a letter dated Dec. 14, Antares managing member James Cabrera told tenants they will receive eviction notices soon, but everyone will have to be out by June 30.

Antares plans to put 175 loft condominiums in the Henry Street building, which it will renovate -- or, if that's too expensive, demolish -- in the summer, Cabrera's letter said.

If the artists and antiques dealers scatter, they aren't likely to come back, said Mary Louise Long, a painter who moved her studio to the Henry Street building from Rhode Island eight years ago. Long can do some work at her North Stamford home but worries that she will have a tough time finding studio space large enough for her 6-by-10-foot canvases.

Sticking together is important for exposure, she said.

"As a group, you can get more people who are art-minded, curators and gallery owners to come through the building," she said. "You have to beat the bushes to get people to come into your studio if you're in an isolated location."

The artists have known that they would have to leave the Yale & Towne site, and even considered moving as a group to Norwalk, but most prefer to stay in the South End as it grows, Denning said.

"The more people that are down there, the better it is for us, because we're seen," she said.

But finding other space in the South End has been difficult, because some property owners hope Antares will buy their land, too.

"Empty buildings are staying empty because they're waiting for Antares to offer them the highest possible price," said Dana Scinto, an artist and member of the group who rents space in the building.

Macleod said Antares is willing to break even or provide subsidies to keep the artists in the city.

The future of other tenants of the Yale & Towne site, including several antiques dealers and other businesses, is less clear. Antares has not been working on a similar deal with them, Macleod said.

The artists' association and Mayor Dannel Malloy asked Antares to try to keep the artists in the South End.

"They're asking us to be the landlord to 20 tenants," Macleod said. "Well, that wasn't exactly what we had in mind."

Antares is looking for one site with 15,000 or 20,000 square feet that could be subdivided into studios of 400 to 800 square feet each, but completing a deal depends on the artists, Macleod said.

"We're not going to be in a position to act on 15,000 or 20,000 square feet unless they're willing to commit," he said. "They've got to be prepared to act as well."





WATCH THOSE LINSEAD OIL RAGS, TOO
From what we all were supposed to remember from elementary school ("Little Hot Spot"), spontaneous combustion goes - "poof."  In preparation for lawsuit, 600 pp report issued.

Joyful Noise: World-record caroling helps project in memory of girls' fire death
Westport News
Updated 6:41 am, Thursday, December 13, 2012

In an effort to raise money for a foundation born in the ashes of a Christmastime tragedy that claimed the lives of three young girls last year, a group of more than 500 people organized by the Unitarian Church of Westport set the world record Wednesday night for door-to-door caroling.

The church's "One Voice" group raised money for the Lily Sarah Grace Fund, established in memory of Lily, Sarah and Grace Badger who died along with their grandparents in a fire that swept through their Stamford home early last Christmas Day.

The group of 508 singers serenaded 14 homes in the Compo area with two holiday tunes en route to setting what is expected to be certified as a Guinness World Record.

Matthew Badger, the father of the three young girls who died in the blaze, was among those in the caroling crowd. He established the foundation in their memory to benefit creative projects in under-funded schools.

"I'm really amazed by it and I'm really happy and it's really beautiful," Badger, who did not address the gathering, told the Westport News. "There's been many expressions like this throughout the country. I'm so happy there are so many kids here having such a good time."

In Wake Of Stamford Fire, Father Says Fund In Daughters' Names Helps Him Carry On
Norwalk HOUR
Staff report The Hartford Courant
9:46 p.m. EDT, September 13, 2012

NORWALK ——

The father of three girls killed in a Christmas morning fire in Stamford last year said on Thursday that a foundation in their name, which provides arts grants to schools, "makes me feel like I'm loving my girls again."

"I had to manifest some kind of meaning to the death of my children," Matthew Badger said at a fundraiser for the LilySarahGraceFund at the (NOTE:  the Courant doesnot know the name of the Lockwood-Matthews Mansion, we guess) Manice Lockwood Mansion in Norwalk.

"It's for my girls, and that's really it," he said. "It's the love of a father for his daughters."

The fund, which Badger founded in memory of 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace, provides grants for teachers to help boost arts programs in schools.  The fund says its mission "is empowering and challenging teachers at underfunded public elementary schools to use the arts in the teaching of their core curriculum."

The fire killed the three girls and their maternal grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson. The girls' mother, Madonna Badger, and Michael Borcina, her boyfriend and the general contractor handling renovations to the house, escaped the fire.  To raise money for the fund, local artists hosted a program called Art 'n' Bloom, which showcased the works of 13 Norwalk artists. Donations from the event went to the LilySarahGraceFund. 

In an interview outside the fundraiser, Badger said, "I miss my girls because they were my life, and I struggle every day with the meaning of life.

"A person that loses their child has attacks — waves — of incredible despair that make you feel like you're on the edge of not wanting to be present on this planet."

He said he has found the strength to move on through the memory of his daughters, and his foundation. As the arts grants spread, he said, so will the memory of his daughters.  He also said that he has been in touch with his ex-wife, Madonna, and that she also is continuing on as best as she can.  In July, Matthew Badger sued the city, Borcina and several others who did work on the Shippan Avenue home, saying they all had roles in making it into a "firetrap."

"The girls died before they could escape the home, which had become a firetrap as a result of months of substandard construction leading up to the fire," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says city officials knew or should have known that Borcina served as the home's general contractor but didn't have a state home improvement contractor's license.  The home's architect, electrician and general contractor listed on the building permit were included as defendants.  In June, Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen said he found no criminal negligence in investigating the fire, which has been blamed on a bag of fireplace ashes that had been discarded in a mudroom.

The grandparents' estates have notified the city of their intent to sue.

Stamford Christmas Fire Probe Sheds New Light On Blaze, Aftermath
The Hartford Courant
By ALAINE GRIFFIN and CHRISTINE DEMPSEY, agriffin@courant.com
July 22, 2012

STAMFORD— The criminal investigation into the Christmas morning fire that killed three girls and their grandparents is over.  But the nearly 600 pages of reports gathered by the Stamford police, fire and building departments in the course of the probe could play a key role in civil lawsuits filed since the tragedy.  Questions about safety precautions and renovations inside the $1.7-million waterfront home before the fire are at the heart of a civil action filed earlier this month by Matthew Badger, the father of the three girls.

The lawsuit, filed against Stamford officials, Badger's ex-wife's contractor boyfriend, Michael Borcina, and several others who did work at the home, says "the girls died before they could escape the home which had become a firetrap as a result of months of substandard and dangerous construction."

The reports from the city, released to the public last week, do not blame Borcina or say that any of his actions — or any possible inaction by the city — contributed to the fire. But the reports detail interviews with people who questioned the city's oversight of the renovation project and Borcina's credentials, the work Borcina oversaw and whether smoke detectors and alarms were properly installed inside the home.  The previously undisclosed reports also provide dramatic snapshots of the tragedy through recollections of the two survivors, Borcina and the girls' mother, Manhattan advertising executive Madonna Badger, and the heartbreak of firefighters faced with trying to save the family.

In one fire department incident report, firefighters recall battling extreme heat and raging flames while climbing through a second-floor window. Orders to evacuate aborted the rescue attempt.

"It was later discovered that this entry attempt came to within a few feet of reaching victims located at the top of the second floor stairwell," the report says.

With the lawsuit filings and release of the 588 pages of documents, the widely publicized family tragedy has grown well beyond the narrow focus of a fire-investigation report.

No Criminal Charges

Stamford State's Attorney David I. Cohen in June announced he would not file any criminal charges in connection with the fire that killed the Badger girls — Lily, 9, and twins Sarah and Grace, both 7 — and Madonna Badger's parents, Pauline and Lomer Johnson.

The fire at 2267 Shippan Ave. broke out shortly after Badger and Borcina had gone to sleep after a night of wrapping Christmas presents. The investigatory reports say Borcina discarded fireplace ashes inside the home's mudroom before going to bed.  According to the recently released reports, Borcina — who was sleeping alone in a rear bedroom — said he was awakened early that morning by "someone knocking on the bedroom door."

Smoke made visibility poor inside the home, but he believed Pauline and Lomer Johnson and one of the girls were there at the door, he told investigators. He said he led the others down the front staircase. The front door was on fire, so he went back up to the second floor — but later realized neither the Johnsons nor the girl was behind him, the fire investigation states.  Borcina escaped the burning home by climbing out of a window onto the roof of the front porch and jumping to the ground.

Firefighters found the bodies of the three girls and their grandmother inside the home. Lomer Johnson's body was found on the porch roof. Fire officials believe Johnson had been leading one of his granddaughters toward a window to escape before he fell.  Firefighters found Madonna Badger on the roof of the front porch, where she told them she went to look for her children. A police sergeant recalled seeing Badger later kneeling in her driveway, dressed in a nightgown with no shoes. Her hands, feet and portions of her face were covered in soot.

"Why aren't they getting my children?" Badger screamed, the sergeant said in the report, and she tried "to push me away to run past me to get to the house."

Investigators are convinced the fire began in a mudroom on the first floor of the house, where hours earlier Borcina had put discarded ashes from the fireplace.  In his decision not to prosecute Borcina, Cohen cited Borcina's statement in which he told investigators that he was able to run his hands over the ashes, a sign to both him and Madonna Badger that there were no hot embers.

Borcina's lawyer, Eugene J. Riccio, expressed relief at the time of Cohen's decision, saying Borcina had come under unnecessary and hurtful scrutiny.  On Friday, Riccio pointed again to Cohen's conclusions.

"A respected and experienced prosecutor looked at this matter and decided it shouldn't be pursued criminally as it relates to this horrendous incident," Riccio said. "I think that decision speaks for itself."

Riccio said Borcina was fully cooperative with the police investigation.

House Razed On Dec. 26

Riccio noted that the razing of the Badger home — an act by city officials that prompted Madonna Badger earlier this month to file a lawsuit against the carting company the city hired to do the job — complicates a further review of the events leading to the deadly fire.

"The destruction of the home I believe will leave many of these questions unanswered," Riccio said.

Joseph Capalbo, Stamford's director of legal affairs, said Building Official Robert DeMarco's decision to raze the house did not violate the city's ordinance.

He said the demolition "is consistent with his duties and appropriate under the circumstances." He said the structure was in "imminent danger" of collapsing.

The copy of the ordinance provided in the police report states that the building official may "require the owner" of an unsafe structure to take it down. If the owner fails to raze the building within five days, the building official may demolish it.  In his lawsuit, Matthew Badger slams the city of Stamford for demolishing the home without the permission of Madonna Badger and before state officials could inspect the fire scene.

Stamford "negligently demolished the home even though it possessed a duty of care to maintain the home as an area of investigation and a piece of evidence crucial to any pending claims against the city of Stamford and other defendants arising out of negligence and reckless actions taken in connection with the home, even though it was aware of the damage the demolition of the home would cause to plaintiffs' ability to prosecute their claims," Stamford lawyer Jonathan P. Whitcomb wrote in the lawsuit.

Matthew Badger's lawsuit, filed on behalf of the estates of his three daughters, seeks unspecified compensation "for their conscious pain and suffering, consciousness of impending death, death itself, loss of the enjoyment of life's activities and future earnings."

Whitcomb referred all questions about the lawsuit to Matthew Badger's New York-based lawyer, Richard D. Emery, who did not return calls for comment.

Badger pushed police to investigate Borcina for some degree of criminal negligence, according to police reports. A month after the fire, Badger met with police to discuss the investigation, but the meeting turned sour when Badger accused police of not doing their jobs.

The exchange "was so unpleasant" that police offered to leave the meeting.

Report: Smoke Detectors Not Connected

Police and fire reports show investigators did look into the work in the house, focusing on several areas, most significantly whether smoke detectors or fire alarms were installed in the Badger home.  According to a Stamford Police report, electrician Stephen Holt — who is named in Matthew Badger's lawsuit — said he installed 11 smoke detectors and five carbon monoxide detectors in October 2011 and that Borcina "was to call him when he wanted the detectors operational."

Holt told police that Borcina said he wanted to paint first. According to the report, the detectors were not operational "due to lack of a power source" and were not connected to individual batteries for backup up within them.  Holt said Borcina "never called to finish the job," the police report said.

After the fire, investigators found a control panel for the smoke alarm system in the basement. Inside it, apparently undamaged by the fire, was an unconnected battery and a plug, not connected to any electricity.

Shortly after the fire, while he was still being treated at the hospital for injuries he suffered in the fire, Borcina told police he did not hear any fire alarms or smoke detectors sounding at the time of the fire.  Borcina said "there were smoke detectors all over the house," but when asked about whether they were functional, Borcina's brother, Mitch Borcina, stopped the interview and told police to leave the room, according to the report.

When police returned 10 minutes later, the brother said Borcina was "not feeling up to continuing the interview," the report states.

Cohen looked into the issue of the smoke detectors when compiling his own report. He said though the fire investigation was "hampered" when the house was demolished and debris was removed before officials could inspect the house to determine if any smoke detectors were in the home, at the time of the fire, no smoke detectors were required by the building code.

Cohen said it was also legal for the Badgers to be living at the house during the renovations.

Riccio said investigators found several smoke detectors on the property, but he pointed again to the demolition of the home as a reason investigators may never know for sure if they were operating at the time of the fire.

Not Licensed In Connecticut?

The newly released reports also quote witnesses addressing whether Borcina had the proper credentials for the renovation job.  According to a police report, Borcina served as the home's general contractor, but he didn't have a state home improvement contractor's license.

He asked longtime friend and carpenter Mike Foley of New York — whom Matthew Badger also is suing — to apply for a Connecticut home improvement license for the project because Borcina had liens and judgments against him, the report states. Foley got the license on Dec. 7, 2010 and helped him with the project.  But Foley grew weary of the commute and only did about 30 hours of work, the report states. The project was supposed to be small, Foley told police.

Without Foley's knowledge, Borcina renewed the license in Foley's name in December and listed his own address as Foley's, investigators found.  Although Foley trusted Borcina, he told police, he "would not have allowed that knowing that the job was still going on," according to a police report.

The state Department of Consumer Protection, which registers home improvement contractors, has no plans to cite Borcina, its commissioner said Friday.

"We don't have an active investigation, and we don't have a complaint, nor do we have any information that would lead to an investigation," William Rubenstein said Friday.

Statements to Stamford police from two carpenters who worked for Borcina at the 116-year old Victorian house from August to November 2011 said Borcina was lax about safety, and when they expressed their concerns, they said, Borcina threatened to fire them.  Don Raskopf, a carpentry foreman, and Andrew Grunow, a master carpenter, told investigators they believed Borcina allowed the family to move in too soon and that they were living there under "hazardous conditions," according to the police report.

New oil-finished flooring and pine paneling in the kitchen and in the new mud room contributed to what the men called a "fire fuel load," a police report said.

"Very important but totally ignored by Mike Borcina were Andrew's warnings about installing pine paneling on the kitchen staircase that led to the second floor landing," the men wrote to police.

When asked about the carpenters' claims, Riccio said Friday, "Mr. Borcina has steadfastly denied that the work performed at the home was done in an unsafe manner."

'Massive Sparks'

For his part, Borcina, according to the documents, suggests at one point during the investigation that the fire may not have started with the embers.  Instead, Borcina wondered whether the cause of the fire could be tied to something electrical. In a January 2012 interview with police, Borcina said he saw "massive sparks coming from the area of where the electric" had entered the house.

Fire officials said they inspected the panel and concluded the fire did not start near there.  According to the fire investigation report, heavy burn patterns on the floor of the mudroom and a "definitive V pattern" in the area show that the fire started there.

The reports make the conclusion that fireplace ash and embers discarded in the mudroom caused the deadly blaze.  Madonna Badger told police that she had had second thoughts about Borcina leaving ashes in the mud room, according to a never-before released investigatory report.

"Madonna stated that she questioned herself, then, if this was a good place to leave the ashes for safety reasons and considered placing the box in the backyard," a police report said. "She [recalled] saying to herself that she saw Mike use his hands to smooth out the ashes in the bag and again considered that sufficient to satisfy her concerns that there were no live embers."

Borcina is an outdoors-type of guy who lived as a cowboy for two years, she told the investigators.

She broke down more than a dozen times during the interview, police said.

"It was obvious to all present that she is overcome and overwhelmed with grief," the report states.

Lawsuits Pending

Matthew Badger's lawsuit, filed on behalf of the estates of his three daughters, seeks unspecified compensation "for their conscious pain and suffering, consciousness of impending death, death itself, loss of the enjoyment of life's activities and future earnings."

The lawsuit states that Borcina "allowed Lily, Sarah and Grace to live" among electrical, security and safety hazards and lists a series of ways in which Borcina, city officials and others allegedly failed to make the home safe for his children.

The lawsuit claims Borcina was supposed to install a hard-wired smoke detection system at the home, and that he could not finish the work "properly and on schedule because he ignored common, reasonable and standard construction practices."


Police release probe into fatal fire
City report: 2 contractors say they warned Borcina safety methods were being ignored
Jeff Morganteen, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 10:42 p.m., Friday, July 20, 2012


STAMFORD -- Two former workers for the contractor who escaped the fatal Christmas fire in Shippan told police they voiced safety concerns about his work months.

The only survivors were contractor Michael Borcina and New York City advertising executive Madonna Badger, whose parents and three young daughters died in the Shippan Avenue home she was having renovated.

"We both had discussions with Mike Borcina regarding standard construction and safety methods that were being ignored and, as a result, were threatened with being fired," according to the statement from Andrew Grunow and Don Raskopf. "Mike Borcina refused to listen to our recommendations even though we are both experienced professionals. We were told not to speak to Mrs. Badger directly."

Facing a lawsuit over its handling of its building inspection process and demolition orders following the fire, the city on Friday released to The Advocate 558 pages of reports, photographs and communications about the fire.

The collection of documents, which contain police reports from interviews, Building Department records and emails between city officials, offers insight into the Stamford Police Department investigation of the tragedy and the city's decision to demolish the three-story, 116-year-old home at 2267 Shippan Ave. a day after the conflagration. The city's legal department redacted information it said would result in an invasion of privacy and withheld emails that constituted a confidential attorney-client communications or referred to litigation against the city.

Dying in the fire were 9-year-old Lily Badger and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace Badger, along with their maternal grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, 71 and 69, respectively. The girls and their grandmother died from smoke inhalation, while the grandfather died from a traumatic head injury suffered in a fall from a second-floor window onto a roof of the home.

Grunow, a master carpenter, and Raskopf, a carpentry foreman, worked under Borcina on extensive renovationsdone at the home from August to November, according to the statement they made in the police investigation. The contractors claimed they contacted the Stamford Fire & Rescue Department and the city Building Department to relay their concerns about safety during the renovations. The contractors said Borcina ignored their warnings about flammable materials he used for paneling in the kitchen and flooring in the mudroom.

The contractors accused Borcina of taking down battery-operated smoke and heat detectors following an insurance underwriter's inspection some time before the fire.

"Mike Borcina repeatedly and arrogantly refused to abide by standard construction and safety regulations," Grunow and Raskopf wrote. "He allowed the Badger family to move into a structure that was under construction, did not have basic fire safety equipment available, no phone system, no alarm system and many windows secured shut."

In a follow-up interview, Borcina denied telling anyone to take down the smoke detectors and said he installed them in the basement, attic and three floors. When police investigators interviewed Madonna Badger on Jan. 12, she told them her father, a former safety officer, was insistent about installing smoke alarms throughout the house.

Police interviewed several contractors about the placement of battery- and hard-wired smoke detectors. The hard-wired smoke detectors system had been installed in the basement, but was not connected to a power source at the time of the fire, and investigators received conflicting information on whether battery-operated detectors remained in the home before the fire.

The claims about safety concerns echo allegations in a lawsuit recently filed by Madonna Badger's former husband, Matthew, against Stamford city officials and Borcina, whose attorney refuted the allegations.

"Mr. Borcina has always maintained that the work that was done at the home was done in a safe and proper fashion," defense attorney Eugene Riccio said.

Other documents provide insight into the leads Stamford police investigators pursued in the weeks following the fire.

On Jan. 6, investigators met with Michael Foley, of Purling, N.Y., whose named appeared on building permits as the general contractor for the renovations. According to witnesses and workers, Borcina presented himself as the general contractor for the work.

A friend of Borcina's for 20 years, Foley told police he began work on the home early in 2011, and had only been in it about three times since then, according to a police report. He told investigators he did not object to Borcina using his name on the building permit as general contractor since it was only Foley and Borcina working on renovations at the time. Foley stopped coming the work site because of the long commute to and from his home, he told police.

The investigators asked Foley whether he knew if Borcina renewed his home contractor's license in December 2011. Foley said was unaware of any renewal and said he didn't know Borcina lacked a valid Connecticut license. Foley said he would not have allowed Borcina to use his name on the permit if he had known, according to the police report.

In an interview with police and his attorney Jan. 16, Borcina told investigators he wanted to renew his contractor's license but didn't want to disclose his past legal judgments. Borcina owes nearly $100,000 in judgments relating to projects in Manhattan and upstate Connecticut, according to court records.

According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, Borcina's home improvement contractor registration expired in November 2000. State law prohibits home improvement contractors from working in Connecticut without a valid registration and makes it a Class-B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.

Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said investigators pursued the issue of license renewal by Borcina and presented their findings to Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen, who declined to press charges because there was no proof of criminality. Conklin referred questions about the decision to prosecutors, but Cohen was not available for comment Friday afternoon.

In early June, Cohen decided not to bring charges against Borcina or Madonna Badger for criminal negligence with regard to the fire.

During a Jan. 25 meeting between Matthew Badger's attorneys and Stamford police investigators, the father pushed authorities to arrest Borcina on criminal negligence charges regarding his contracting practices and his handling of the fireplace ashes that allegedly caused the fire.

"At one point Matthew Badger let it be known that he did not feel we were doing our job," the Stamford police investigators wrote. "He was not happy with the Stamford authorities working on this investigation and blasted us for taking the house down so soon and not having answers to the many questions that he had."

In his lawsuit, which also named Foley and other workers as defendants, Matthew Badger accused city building officers of knocking down the house to destroy evidence that could be used in a civil lawsuit against the city. Madonna Badger and lawyers representing the estate of her parents, the Johnsons, filed notices of intent to sue the city based on the same allegation several weeks ago.

On Feb. 10, Stamford's chief building official, Robert DeMarco, sent his supervisor a two-page report justifying his decision to demolish the 3,349-square-foot home, $1.7 million home. DeMarco said he inspected the home with two city fire marshals and determined it was unsound.

"That the property could not be secured and the structure was in imminent danger of collapse and a danger to human life made my decision to demolish the structure to prevent further damage to neighboring properties and to protect the general public from harm," DeMarco wrote.

According to a police report, city Director of Operations Ernie Orgera consulted City Attorney Michael Larobina on Christmas afternoon about DeMarco's desire to knock down the house. Orgera said Larobina told him only the city building official could order a demolition.

Borcina has troubled legal history
Christmas blaze: Ex-clients seek payments from contractor
Stamford ADVOCATE
Jeff Morganteen, Staff Writer
Updated 08:57 p.m., Friday, July 20, 2012


STAMFORD -- Michael Borcina, the contractor overseeing renovations at the Shippan Avenue mansion consumed in the Christmas morning fire that killed three young sisters and their grandparents, has a trail of legal judgments and pending lawsuits over disputes from past jobs, court files show.

Borcina owes nearly $100,000 in legal judgments from two past projects in Manhattan and upstate Connecticut. According to a source familiar with the lawsuits, one of the former clients tried serving Borcina with legal documents during his hospital stay following the Shippan Avenue fire, in which he suffered burns and smoke inhalation.

Borcina also faces lawsuits from two more recent clients in Manhattan and Long Island. The complaints, filed over projects from the past two years, seek nearly $75,000.

Borcina's attorney, Eugene Riccio, declined to comment for the story. Since Borcina escaped the Shippan Avenue home during the fire on Christmas morning -- which Stamford fire officials initially said started when Borcina discarded fireplace embers in a plastic bag -- scrutiny on the contractor and his business has mounted. With clients such as television personality Gayle King and an award-winning director, Borcina's high-end construction company, Tiberias, catered to upper-crust clientele, despite his rocky legal history.

One former client, identified through court records as Maurice Sonnenberg, a senior international adviser at JP Morgan Chase, won an $86,666 judgment against Borcina six years ago. Sonnenberg, a former adviser in several U.S. presidential administrations, filed a lawsuit against Borcina in 2004 at state Superior Court in Danbury after hiring Greenwich attorney Philip Russell.

Sonnenberg accused Borcina of breaching two contracts by failing to complete a pair of home improvement projects in winter 2001 at his Manhattan apartment, according to court documents. Two years after filing the lawsuit, Sonnenberg won a judgment ordering Borcina to pay $31,666 in damages, $50,000 on lost rental income from the unfinished apartment, and $5,000 in attorney's fees.

Borcina didn't hire an attorney, nor did he appear on his behalf in the lawsuit, according to the court file. The court awarded the $86,666 judgment in February 2006 after checking whether Borcina was serving in the U.S. military.

Holly Flor, a Roxbury woman who hired Borcina for a restoration in 1999, said she and her husband were unable to locate him after they secured a $15,000 judgment against him in a 2001 lawsuit filed at state Superior Court in Litchfield. She and her husband fired Borcina from the renovation job because of his erratic and unprofessional behavior, she said.

"He fancied himself a big-time contractor," Flor said. "I think what he was, was a skilled carpenter."

Flor recalled Borcina as bombastic and aggressive, especially with his employees. His personality often appeared to get in the way of the job, she said, which languished over a four- to six-month period. Turnover among workers was high during the renovation, she recalled, and his personal life seemed turbulent. She often was unable to reach him by phone, and he blamed missed appointments on car trouble and other excuses, Flor said.

"Even when I first met him he was always this testosterone-driven personality," Flor said. "This macho thing came through as his modus operandi."

At one point, he asked to move into Flor's home, she said. He lived in a wing of their large home for several weeks during the renovation.

More than a decade later, Borcina was staying at the Shippan Avenue home of Madonna Badger, a 47-year-old New York City advertising executive, when a raging fire ripped through the house and killed Badger's three daughters and her parents Christmas morning. Borcina and Badger escaped the fire. The intense heat of the fire pushed firefighters from the house during several rescue attempts.

Police and fire officials described the blaze as accidental and said no criminal charges were anticipated in the case. An initial investigation into the Christmas morning fire revealed that Borcina cleaned out the fireplace shortly after 3 a.m. and placed the embers in a bag and left them inside a newly constructed mudroom or just outside in an enclosed trash bin.

Badger buried her three girls -- 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace -- Jan. 5, following a funeral at a Manhattan church. Her parents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, were also killed in the fire. Pauline and the girls died from smoke inhalation, according to the state medical examiner. Lomer died from blunt head and neck trauma as he fell out of a window while trying to help one of the girls escape.

Stamford Fire & Rescue's final report on the blaze has yet to be filed. As Stamford Police Department investigators and fire marshals conduct a weeks-long investigation into the fire, Borcina has hired Riccio, a high-profile criminal defense attorney from Bridgeport, to represent him.

According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, Borcina's home improvement contractor registration expired in November 2000. State law prohibits home improvement contractors from working in Connecticut without a valid registration. Working as home improvement contractor without a registration is a class-B misdemeanor, a crime punishable by up to six months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.

For the renovations at 2267 Shippan Ave., Borcina applied for a building permit in February 2011 for alterations costing $205,000. He listed Michael Foley, a licensed home improvement contractor from Purling, N.Y., as the general contractor. Foley could not be reached for comment.

Borcina's company, Tiberias Construction, asserts on its website that it performs high-end renovations and restorations for properties in New York and Fairfield County. Past projects include Gayle King's mansion in Greenwich and the Donna Karan store in New York City, according to the site. King, the former editor of Oprah Winfrey's O, The Oprah Magazine, declined to comment, an assistant wrote in an e-mail.

According to New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs, the home improvement license for Tiberias and Borcina in that state expired June 2010, a few months before he took on a job renovating an Upper West Side co-op.

In December 2010, Borcina and his construction company were sued in New York Supreme Court by Patti Greaney and Robert Giraldi for allegedly failing to pay a sub-contractor $20,230 for work done at their home in Montauk, N.Y. The lawsuit also accused Borcina of keeping $28,954 of the $60,000 paid to him after beginning electrical work in December 2007 at the Long Island home. Greaney and Giraldi are seeking $49,184 from Borcina in the pending lawsuit. A producer and director in Manhattan, Giraldi directed the Michael Jackson music video for "Beat It" and the Pepsi commercial in which the late pop star's hair caught on fire, according to his production's company website and published reports.

Michael Mortenson, a 65-year-old waiter living in an Upper West Side co-op on in Manhattan, sued Borcina this past June in New York City civil court for $25,000. Mortenson said he and his wife paid Borcina a $14,000 retainer in October 2010, and another $16,000 upon signing a contract to renovate an apartment they bought in the building where they have lived for the past 12 years.

Mortenson said Borcina began demolishing parts of the apartment before getting the necessary approval from the building's co-op board and before getting work permits from the city building department. Dust from the construction work made its way into an adjacent apartment.

Mortenson said he fired Borcina and asked him to repay $18,000 in the hopes of getting a settlement. Borcina stopped returning phone calls, so Mortenson filed a lawsuit against him seeking $25,000. He said he and his wife overlooked several red flags from Borcina because they preoccupied themselves with getting an extensive renovation approved by the co-op board. When neighbors and the co-op board voiced their concerns over the renovation, Borcina told Mortenson and his wife not to talk to them. A new contractor took over the renovations after Mortenson fired Borcina because of the unauthorized demolitions.

"We lived in the building for 12 years," Mortenson said. "They are our neighbors and our friends and he wanted to tell us how to treat them. That was another red flag."


Father files lawsuit in Christmas Day fire
Suit: Shippan home had become a 'firetrap'

Jeff Morganteen, Greenwich TIME
Updated 09:55 p.m., Wednesday, July 11, 2012


STAMFORD -- Lawyers for the father of three girls killed in a Christmas morning fire on Shippan Avenue formally served a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit Wednesday against the city, naming four other defendants, including the father's estranged wife's boyfriend, the general contractor who escaped the blaze.

The lawsuit, filed with the Stamford town clerk Wednesday, names a total of five defendants, including contractor Michael Borcina, who escaped the fire along with Madonna Badger, the New York City advertising executive, who also lost her parents in the blaze. The city of Stamford, along with the home's architect, electrician and general contractor listed on the building permit were included as defendants. The companies for all the defendants were named in the lawsuit, as well.

"No smoke detectors or fire alarms alerted them to the fire," reads the lawsuit filed by Stamford attorney John Whitcomb. "The girls died before they could escape the home, which had become a firetrap as a result of months of substandard construction leading up to the fire."

The lawsuit claims Borcina was to oversee installation of a hard-wired smoke detection system after beginning renovations at the three-story, waterfront Victorian-style home in early 2011, and that he failed to complete the renovations on schedule because he ignored standard contracting practices. The renovations were supposed to end in April 2011, but Borcina failed to finish work on several rooms and left the ground floor without heating.

"The complaint speaks for itself," said Richard Emery, the Manhattan attorney heading Matthew Badger's legal actions. "There's nothing really more to say. We're moving forward on this, and we're going to go aggressively."

The suit alleges city officials should have known renovations at the home were beyond the scope of the work permits issued, and that the city either knew or should have known Borcina acted as the project's general contractor without having a current state home improvement contractor's license. Michael Foley, a Long Island carpenter listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, was the general contractor listed on the city permits for the renovations on the 116-year-old home.

Attorneys for Borcina were not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Joseph Capalbo, the director of legal affairs for Stamford, said he could not comment on the lawsuit since he had not seen the complaint.

The raging fire killed Matthew Badger's three girls -- 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace -- along with their maternal grandparents, Lomer, 71, and Pauline Johnson, 69. The girls and Pauline Johnson died from smoke inhalation, while Lomer died from a traumatic head injury suffered in a fall from a second-floor window onto the home's roof.

Madonna Badger escaped the fire with Borcina, before the intense flames and heat thwarted rescue efforts and forced firefighters from the three-story water view home. Borcina stayed at the home Christmas Eve and helped Madonna wrap Christmas presents in the garage before the fatal fire, authorities have said.

Authorities say the raging fire began after Borcina discarded a bag of fireplace ashes in a mudroom, with smoldering embers then igniting. Madonna Badger disputed the official account of the fire during an interview with NBC News last month.

Badger told NBC's Matt Lauer she doesn't blame Borcina for the fire; he ran his hand through the ashes to make sure no embers were smoldering. Two weeks before the interview, Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen announced he opted against filing criminal charges against Badger or Borcina because there was not enough evidence to prove Badger and Borcina were negligent.

The lawsuit comes after Madonna Badger and lawyers representing her parents' estate both filed notices of intent to sue Stamford city officials for intentionally destroying evidence when they demolished the burnt-out home a day after the fatal fire, an issue that Cohen cited as a hindrance to the criminal investigation. Matthew Badger's lawyers included the same allegation in the lawsuit served on Stamford officials Wednesday, saying the decision was "reckless."

Matthew Badger was named administrator of his deceased daughters' estates this past March and filed a notice of intent to sue Stamford city officials this past May, a prerequisite before filing a lawsuit against a municipality.

The lawsuit alleges that Borcina engaged in carpentry, finishing and electrical work himself while acting as general contractor. Instead of completing the exterior renovations before finishing the interior work, Borcina opted to leave the exterior unfinished as he ordered contractors to work on the interior, the lawsuit said. That went against best practices and caused water leaks.

Borcina buried existing electrical boxes in walls by placing panels over them, and spliced wires to add electrical fixtures more quickly, the lawsuit said.

"These practices posed substantial safety and electrical hazards that were open and obvious," the lawsuit said.

Borcina faces allegations that he ignored warnings and failed to install firestops to prevent flames from traveling quickly through the home's hollow wooden walls, and that his outside scaffolding was not secure. The lawsuit also attacks Borcina's management style and blamed his personality for the slow work schedule, further alleging that he threatened to fire workers who voiced concerns about the safety hazards.

"Borcina routinely yelled and screamed at contractors, subcontractors, and members of the trade regarding the quality of their work, even though there was often nothing wrong with their work," the lawsuit said. "He demanded that perfectly completed carpentry be removed and redone in its entirety."

The renovation delays caused Madonna Badger to move in her daughters to the home despite it being an "active construction site," the lawsuit said. The girls lived there amid live electrical wires, uncovered power outlets and water leaks. The lawsuit alleges Borcina installed battery-operated smoke detectors in September to prepare for an inspection from an insurance company but they were gone a month later, according to a carpet installer who worked on the home, the lawsuit said.

An investigation after the fire found that the hard-wired fire alarm system was unconnected to a power source, and that it would have taken about 30 minutes to set up the system, according to the lawsuit.

New Canaan architect Robert Dean, electrician Stephen Holt and their respective companies were named as defendants for their roles in the renovations at 2267 Shippan Ave. The complaint alleges that Foley was liable for allowing Borcina to use his Connecticut contractor's license to perform the renovations and apply for work permits with city officials.

The lawsuit alleges that city officials issued several permits for renovations at Madonna Badger's home for projects that were not covered in the initial plan under the original work permit. A city inspection of electrical work noted the lack of firestops.

Matthew Badger's lawyers contend that Stamford city officials should be held liable for the deaths because they failed to require a certificate of occupancy before the three girls moved into the home, and because officials failed to perform final inspections of the renovations among of several other allegations.

Madonna Badger: Embers didn't cause fire
Greenwich TIME
Updated 09:06 a.m., Thursday, June 21, 2012

In her first televised interview since her parents and three daughters were killed in a Christmas day inferno in Stamford, Madonna Badger told NBC's Matt Lauer that -- contrary to the findings of the Stamford fire marshal's office -- the blaze that consumed Badger's Shippan Avenue home was not caused by smoldering fireplace embers.

Badger, a respected New York City advertising executive, told Lauer on NBC's Today show that she doesn't blame the fire on her friend, contractor Michael Borcina, who told investigators he had cleaned out fireplace embers and placed them in a bag before he and Badger went to bed early Christmas morning.

Borcina had run his hands through the ashes to make sure they weren't smoldering -- a factor that made Badger think the ashes posed no danger as the two went to bed.

She even told Lauer that she glanced down at the bag of embers on her way up to bed and wondered if the bag should have been further removed from the house. But recalling that Borcina had run his hands through the embers, she deemed the bag safe and went to bed.

About an hour later, the house was engulfed in flames and her three daughters -- 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace -- were dead, along with her parents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson of Southbury.

"I don't believe that the ashes started the fire," she told Lauer.

"The wind blew ashes out onto the hearth, and so we were cleaning up," Badger said. "I watched him take them with his hand, the shovel, and put `em into the bag. And then take his -- I watched him put his hands in the bag ... to make sure that there's nothing on fire in the bag."

Badger also disputed a report by the Associated Press that the embers had been removed from the fire place because of concerns her daughters had about Santa getting burned while coming down the chimney.


No criminal charges in Conn. Christmas fatal fire
DAY
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press
Jun 8, 11:04 AM EDT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- A prosecutor said Friday that he will not file criminal charges related to a Christmas morning fire that killed three girls and their grandparents.

The fire killed 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger, 9-year-old Lily Badger and grandparents Lomer and Pauline Johnson.

Officials say it was started by embers in a bag of discarded fireplace ashes.

Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen said Friday that some precautions were taken and that while in hindsight they were insufficient, they didn't rise to the level of criminal negligence.

"This is not a decision made easily or lightly," Cohen wrote in a report. "In a tragedy of this magnitude, it is understandable that both the people affected by it personally and the public at large need to find that someone is responsible, that it is not just a senseless accident. However, my determination must be based solely on whether there is sufficient evidence to hold someone criminally responsible."

The girls' mother, Madonna Badger, and a friend Michael Borcina, escaped the fire.

Cohen said Borcina cleaned out the fireplace around 3:30 a.m., shoveling the ash into a paper bag. Borcina said that he smoothed out the ashes with his hand and that allayed any concerns Madonna Badger had about any live embers being present, Cohen said.

"It is my opinion that there is insufficient evidence to establish that either Mrs. Badger or Mr. Borcina were aware of and consciously disregarded a risk that there was a possible live ember in the ash that could result in a catastrophic fire," Cohen wrote. "It stretches belief to think that they would consciously disregard the danger and go to sleep, much less that they would disregard any danger to the Badger children or Mrs. Badger's parents."

Borcina's attorney, Eugene Riccio, said he was grateful for the decision.


Madonna Badger Files Intent To Sue Notice [The News-Times]
Hartford Courant
12:34 PM EDT, March 27, 2012

The News-Times reports: The mother of three girls killed in a Christmas morning fire this past December plans to sue city officials for property damage, civil rights violations and the intentional destruction of evidence when they tore down her Shippan Avenue home a day after the fatal blaze.

A lawyer for Madonna Badger, the New York City advertising executive who lost her parents and daughters in the fire, plans to argue that she suffered a permanent loss of property valued at more than $3 million when city officials demolished her burnt-out house, according to the notice of intent to sue, which was filed Friday morning with the Stamford town clerk's office.


Lawyer: Officials destroyed fire evidence
Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 04:18 p.m., Monday, May 7, 2012

STAMFORD -- A lawyer for father of three young girls killed in the Shippan Avenue house fire on Christmas accused Stamford city officials of intentionally destroying evidence when they demolished the home a day after the fatal inferno.

According to a notice of intent filed Friday with the Stamford town clerk, the father's attorney accused the city officials of negligence by ordering the demolition of the 3,350-square-foot house in addition to a litany of other allegations. The attorney said city officials issued wrong work permits for the renovations at the Shippan Avenue home destroyed by the fire and failed to require proper licenses from Michael Borcina, the contractor overseeing renovations at the house.

The notice of intent, a prerequisite to a lawsuit against the city, named the following Stamford municipal officials as potential defendants: Director of Operations Ernie Orgera, Chief Building Official Robert DeMarco, and City Engineer Louis Casolo. The notice also included employees of the officials' respective departments at city hall.

Joseph Capalbo, the legal affairs director for Stamford, was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Richard Emery, the Manhattan attorney for Matthew Badger, also accused the city officials of failing to refuse work permits from Borcina and Michael Foley, whose name appeared on city building permits as the general contractor, and for allowing an "unsafe and dangerous environment" at the home. The notice of intent goes on to accuse the city of failing to properly inspect the home and allowing the three young girls to live in the house without a working fire alarm system.

The fire killed Matthew Badger's daughters -- 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace -- early Christmas morning as it swept though the Shippan Avenue home of his estranged wife, Madonna Badger, a New York City advertising executive. The fire also killed Madonna Badger's parents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson.

Police and fire officials described the blaze as accidental and said no criminal charges were anticipated. An initial investigation revealed Borcina cleaned out the fireplace shortly after 3 a.m., placed the embers in a bag and left them inside a newly constructed mudroom or just outside in an enclosed trash bin.

A demolition crew tore the house down Dec. 26, the day after the fire. DeMarco inspected what was left of the Shippan Avenue home with Stamford Fire Marshal Barry Callahan before declaring the building unsafe and issuing the order to have it razed.

In December, DeMarco said the building was too unsafe to be left standing. He said he checked with the city fire marshal's office before ordering the demolition.


Stamford sued for fatal Christmas Day fire
John Christoffersen, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 04:06 p.m., Friday, May 4, 2012

NEW HAVEN (AP) -- The father of three girls killed in a Christmas morning fire in Connecticut is accusing the city of Stamford of allowing the house to become a fire trap by failing to properly oversee construction.

An attorney for Matthew Badger tells The Associated Press a notice of intent to sue the city was filed Friday.

Attorney Richard Emery says the city failed to ensure fire alarms were hooked up when children were living in a residence under construction.

City officials didn't immediately return phone calls from the AP seeking comment.

Killed at the girls' mother's house on Long Island Sound were Matthew Badger's twin 7-year-old daughters and their 9-year-old sister. So were their grandparents.

Authorities say the blaze began after his former wife's friend discarded fireplace ashes.


Stamford Fire Probe To Continue To Mid-February
Investigation Takes Longer Than Expected

The Hartford Courant
By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY, cdempsey@courant.com
9:09 AM EST, February 3, 2012

STAMFORD

The investigation into a Christmas fire that killed five family members will not wrap up this week as expected, a police official said.

"We're a week and a half out," Capt. Richard Conklin said Thursday.

Conklin said it is taking police longer than anticipated to obtain reports from other agencies, such as the fire marshals office and building department.

He confirmed reports that police have been talking to a prosecutor about the case, but said that doesn't mean anyone will be arrested. The state's attorney is "right next door," he said, and police talk to him often.

Among other things, investigators are looking into reports that battery-operated smoke detectors had been removed from the Shippan Avenue house before the fire that killed the daughters and parents of ad executive Madonna Badger. Her boyfriend, Michael Borcina, had been doing work on the house and was in the process of wiring smoke detectors and fire alarms, a fire official said last month.

Improper disposal of ashes from the fireplace is believed to have sparked the fire. Fire officials said Borcina removed the embers, put them in a bag and placed the bag in a mud room in back of the house. The flames traveled quickly through the old, Victorian home, which lacked fire stops.

Lily Badger, 9, and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace Badger died in the fire, as did their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson.

Public safety officials say homeowners should place ashes in a metal container with a top and put them outside, away from the house.


State's attorney probes Christmas fire
Jeff Morganteen, Staff Writer, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 10:44 p.m., Friday, January 27, 2012

STAMFORD -- State's Attorney David Cohen met Friday with police who are investigating the Christmas fire that killed three young sisters and two of their grandparents.

Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said the meeting was also attended by investigating officers, their supervisors and Stamford Assistant Police Chief Jon Fontneau.

Police and fire officials initially characterized the blaze as accidental and said no criminal charges were anticipated.

Police interviewed Madonna Badger Jan. 13 as part of a joint investigation with city fire marshals. Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire that consumed Badger's 116-year-old, three-story house near the foot of Shippan Avenue in the Shippan section of Stamford.

Conklin would not comment further on Friday's meeting, but said a follow-up session is expected.

Badger's three daughters -- 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace -- died in the fire with Badger's parents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson. The only survivors were Badger and Michael Borcina, the contractor performing renovations on the house who was staying there as her guest.

Investigators have said they believe the fire was sparked when Borcina cleaned out the fireplace early Christmas morning and left the ashes in a box in the home's mudroom.


Probe Of Christmas Fire That Killed Five May Wrap Up Next Week
The Hartford Courant
By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY, cdempsey@courant.com
11:09 AM EST, January 26, 2012

STAMFORD

Investigators plan to wrap up their investigation of the Christmas fire that killed three girls and their grandparents by the end of next week, a police official said.

"We still have some more interviews to do," Capt. Richard Conklin said Wednesday evening. "Hopefully, by the end of next week, we might come back with something."

Wednesday was the one-month anniversary of the fire that killed Lilian Badger, 9, 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace Badger and grandparents Lomer and Pauline Johnson. The girls' mother, Madonna Badger, an ad executive in the fashion industry, and her boyfriend, Michael Borcina, escaped.

Borcina had been doing work at the $1.7 million house next to the Long Island Sound, which was razed after the fire out of safety concerns.

The fire is believed to have been caused by embers that had been removed from the home's fireplace. Borcina reportedly put the ashes in a bag and placed it in a back room so the children would not worry about Santa Claus coming down the chimney.

Fire officials have said it appears there were no working smoke detectors in the house.

Conklin declined to talk about what investigators have learned so far. They have re-interviewed Madonna Badger and Borcina, he said; they had initially been interviewed the day of the fire.

Based on the information investigators received in the recent interviews, they now have follow-up questions to ask, he said.

Stamford Lt. Diedrich Hohn said in an e-mail Thursday that the only contact police have with Badger is through her lawyer, Stanley A. Twardy Jr.

Mansion workers grilled in probe into Christmas Day fire in Connecticut
NYPOST
By REUVEN FENTON and JEANE MacINTOSH
Last Updated: 8:11 AM, January 21, 2012
Posted: 1:21 AM, January 21, 2012

Employees of a contractor who sparked a Christmas Day fire that killed his girlfriend’s three children are being grilled over the renovation work done at the house as part of an ongoing criminal probe, The Post has learned.  Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said his investigators have talked to several people involved in the work being done on the $1.7 million Stamford home of Manhattan ad exec Madonna Badger.  Her beau, Michael Borcina, was overseeing the project.

“We’re trying to accelerate this and hopefully have something [to release to the public] within the next week and a half, two weeks,” Conklin told The Post.

Conklin has said criminal charges are being weighed.  The blaze destroyed the Victorian manse and killed Badger’s daughters — Lily, 9, and twins Grace and Sarah, 7 — and their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson. It broke out after Borcina put still-smoldering embers in a bag near a mudroom or trash area in the house, investigators have said.  Conklin said probers have interviewed and re-interviewed people who worked at the site.

“We’ve got a lot more interviews scheduled,” he said.

The home had no new certificate of occupancy, and it’s smoke-detector system, installed several months ago, was not hooked up, according to officials. According to sources, the investigation has been hindered because the home was ordered torn down the day of the fire.  One source said the police were not consulted in the decision to tear down the home. Conklin did not respond to several requests for comment on whether his department knew about the tear-down order in advance.

Stamford building department chief Robert DeMarco said he personally made the call to have Badger’s home demolished just hours after the Dec. 25 blaze for “safety reasons.’

No paperwork was filed regarding the order, he said.

“In a criminal probe of a fire, the burned home would be considered a crime scene,” noted Connecticut criminal lawyer Stephan Seeger, who is not involved in the case. “In tearing [Badger’s] down, they’ve reduced the evidence pool.”

Borcina has hired top criminal defense lawyer Eugene Riccio.  The deaths have been ruled accidental.  Seeger noted that if charges are filed, they could range from criminally negligent homicide to reckless manslaughter.  As a contractor, Borcina would be expected to have better-than-average knowledge of safety and construction, Seeger noted.

“The higher the degree of expectation of knowledge, the greater degree of culpability,” Seeger said.

Borcina’s contractor registration in Connecticut expired in 2000. His home-improvement license in New York expired in June 2010.


Borcina has troubled legal history
Jeff Morganteen, Staff Writer, CT POST
Published 11:21 p.m., Thursday, January 19, 2012

STAMFORD -- Michael Borcina, the contractor overseeing renovations at the Shippan Avenue mansion consumed in the Christmas morning fire that killed three young sisters and their grandparents, has a trail of legal judgments and pending lawsuits over disputes from past jobs, court files show.

Borcina owes nearly $100,000 in legal judgments from two past projects in Manhattan and upstate Connecticut. According to a source familiar with the lawsuits, one of the former clients tried serving Borcina with legal documents during his hospital stay following the Shippan Avenue fire, in which he suffered burns and smoke inhalation.

Borcina also faces lawsuits from two more recent clients in Manhattan and Long Island. The complaints, filed over projects from the past two years, seek nearly $75,000.

Borcina's attorney, Eugene Riccio, declined to comment for the story. Since Borcina escaped the Shippan Avenue home during the fire that killed three young girls and their grandparents on Christmas morning -- which Stamford fire officials initially said started when Borcina discarded fireplace embers in a plastic bag -- scrutiny of the contractor and his business has mounted. With clients such as television personality Gayle King and an award-winning director, Borcina's high-end construction company, Tiberias, catered to upper-crust clientele, despite his rocky legal history.

One former client, identified through court records as Maurice Sonnenberg, a senior international adviser at JP Morgan Chase, won an $86,666 judgment against Borcina six years ago. Sonnenberg, a former adviser in several U.S. presidential administrations, filed a lawsuit against Borcina in 2004 in state Superior Court in Danbury after hiring Greenwich attorney Philip Russell.

Sonnenberg accused Borcina of breaching two contracts by failing to complete a pair of home improvement projects in winter 2001 at his Manhattan apartment, according to court documents. Two years after filing the lawsuit, Sonnenberg won a judgment ordering Borcina to pay $31,666 in damages, $50,000 for lost rental income from the unfinished apartment and $5,000 in attorney's fees.

Borcina didn't hire an attorney, nor did he appear on his on behalf in the lawsuit, according to the court file. The court awarded the $86,666 judgment to Borcina in February 2006 after checking whether he was serving in the U.S. military.

Holly Flor, a Roxbury woman who hired Borcina for a restoration in 1999, said she and her husband were unable to locate him after they secured a $15,000 judgment against him in a 2001 lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in Litchfield. She and her husband fired Borcina from the renovation job because of his erratic and unprofessional behavior, she said.

"He fancied himself a big-time contractor," Flor said. "I think what he was, was a skilled carpenter."

Flor recalled Borcina as bombastic and aggressive, especially with his employees. His personality often appeared to get in the way of the job, she said, which languished over a four- to six-month period. Turnover among workers was high during the renovation, she recalled, and his personal life seemed turbulent. She often was unable to reach him by phone, and he blamed missed appointments on car trouble and other excuses, Flor said.

"Even when I first met him, he was always this testosterone-driven personality," Flor said. "This macho thing came through as his modus operandi."

At one point, he asked to move into Flor's home, she said. He lived in a wing of their large home for several weeks during the renovation.

More than a decade later, Borcina was staying at the Shippan Avenue home of Madonna Badger, a 47-year-old New York City advertising executive, when a raging fire ripped through the house and killed Badger's three daughters and her parents Christmas morning. Borcina and Badger escaped the fire. The intense heat of the fire pushed firefighters from the house during several rescue attempts.

Police and fire officials described the blaze as accidental and said no criminal charges were anticipated in the case.

Stamford Fire & Rescue's final report on the blaze has yet to be filed. As Stamford Police Department investigators and fire marshals conduct a weeks-long investigation into the fire, Borcina has hired Riccio, a high-profile criminal defense attorney from Bridgeport, to represent him.

According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, Borcina's home improvement contractor registration expired in November 2000. State law prohibits home improvement contractors from working in Connecticut without a valid registration. Working as home improvement contractor without a registration is a class-B misdemeanor, a crime punishable by up to six months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.

For the renovations at 2267 Shippan Ave., Borcina applied for a building permit in February 2011 for alterations costing $205,000. He listed Michael Foley, a licensed home improvement contractor from Purling, N.Y., as the general contractor. Foley could not be reached for comment.

Borcina's company, Tiberias Construction, asserts on its website that it performs high-end renovations and restorations for properties in New York and Fairfield County. Past projects include Gayle King's mansion in Greenwich and the Donna Karan store in New York City, according to the site. King, the former editor of Oprah Winfrey's O, The Oprah Magazine, declined to comment, an assistant wrote in an email.

According to New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs, the home improvement license for Tiberias and Borcina in that state expired in June 2010, a few months before he took on a job renovating an Upper West Side co-op.

In December 2010, Borcina and his construction company were sued in New York Supreme Court by Patti Greaney and Robert Giraldi for allegedly failing to pay a sub-contractor $20,230 for work done at their home in Montauk, N.Y. The lawsuit also accused Borcina of keeping $28,954 of the $60,000 paid to him after beginning electrical work in December 2007 at the Long Island home. Greaney and Giraldi are seeking $49,184 from Borcina in the pending lawsuit. A producer and director in Manhattan, Giraldi directed the Michael Jackson music video for "Beat It" and the Pepsi commercial in which the late pop star's hair caught on fire, according to his production company's website and published reports.

Michael Mortenson, a 65-year-old waiter living in an Upper West Side co-op in Manhattan, sued Borcina this past June in New York City civil court for $25,000. Mortenson said he and his wife paid Borcina a $14,000 retainer in October 2010, and another $16,000 upon signing a contract to renovate an apartment they bought in the building where they have lived for the past 12 years.

Mortenson said Borcina began demolishing parts of the apartment before getting the necessary approval from the building's co-op board and before getting work permits from the city building department. Dust from the construction work made its way into an adjacent apartment.

Mortenson said he fired Borcina and asked him to repay $18,000 in the hopes of getting a settlement. Borcina stopped returning phone calls, so Mortenson filed a lawsuit against him seeking $25,000. He said he and his wife overlooked several red flags from Borcina because they preoccupied themselves with getting an extensive renovation approved by the co-op board. When neighbors and the co-op board voiced their concerns over the renovation, Borcina told Mortenson and his wife not to talk to them. A new contractor took over the renovations after Mortenson fired Borcina because of the unauthorized demolitions.

"We lived in the building for 12 years," Mortenson said. "They are our neighbors and our friends and he wanted to tell us how to treat them. That was another red flag."


Officials doubt smoke detectors were working Sunday
Likely no warning: Officials doubts home had a working fire detection, alarm system
Kate King, Staff Writer, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 11:26 p.m., Wednesday, December 28, 2011


STAMFORD -- The city's chief building official and the architect who designed recent renovations at 2267 Shippan Ave. said it is unlikely the home had a working fire detection and alarm system at the time of the tragic Christmas Day fire.

A review of the house's building permit file Wednesday indicated the owner, Madonna Badger, hired East Haven electrician Stephen Holt in May to wire an alarm system and smoke, carbon monoxide and motion detectors for less than $5,000. Chief Building Official Bob DeMarco said a tour of the home's basement indicated the electrical work was far from complete, however.

"They weren't finished," DeMarco said. "Their wiring could have been complete upstairs. But it certainly wasn't complete in the basement to even come close to (passing) a final inspection."

The house's basement contained brand new circuit breaker panels and a box that might have been used for an alarm system, but the equipment wasn't hooked up yet, he said. New wires were instead temporarily tied into the old circuit breaker panel and the exposed wiring was hanging from the wall.

"I would assume that they were going to change the circuits and incorporate two brand-new panels," DeMarco said. "That was never done."

Holt did not return calls for comment Wednesday. DeMarco inspected what was left of the Shippan Avenue home along with Fire Marshal Barry Callahan before declaring the building unsafe and issuing the order to have it razed.

A demolition crew tore down the house Monday, one day after the fatal fire that killed Badger's three young daughters and parents in the early hours of Christmas Day morning. Badger escaped the blaze with Michael Borcina of Tiberias Construction, the general contractor hired to perform extensive renovations on her five-bedroom home.

Robert Dean, a partner at the architecture firm that designed the renovations, said he doesn't think smoke alarms went off on the day of the fire.

"I would guess that, based upon the outcome, that the fire detection must not have been functioning," said Dean, a partner at New Canaan Design Partners LLC. "I believe it was in the process of being installed. It's very, very tragic."

The Shippan Avenue home was also not signed up with an outside monitoring company, which would have received an alert if the smoke or carbon monoxide alarms went off in the house, DeMarco said. The lack of an outside monitoring service is another reason city officials are skeptical fire detectors sounded the alarm on Sunday, he said.

"It's kind of hard to believe that they didn't have at least battery back-up," he said. "But who knows."

The only way officials will definitively know if alarms went off or not during the fire will be through interviews with the two survivors, Callahan said at a news conference Tuesday. His office is trying to contact Badger, who was treated and released from Stamford Hospital Sunday.

Borcina, who has declined requests for comment, was released from Stamford Hospital Wednesday morning. His company, Tiberias Construction, performs high-end renovations and restorations for properties in New York and Fairfield County. Past projects include Gayle King's mansion in Greenwich and the Donna Karan store in New York City.

DeMarco said Borcina kept the Shippan home's building permit file at the Government Center up-to-date as he performed renovations on Badger's $1.7 million Victorian home, which overlooked Long Island Sound. A February building permit log showed he spent more than $170,000 on permits for renovations to the 3,349-square-foot house, including alterations to the kitchen, all three floors and several bathrooms. The contractor also built the mudroom and trash enclosure area where the fire started Sunday.

DeMarco said building officials wouldn't have checked the home's electrical and smoke detection system until the final inspection, which is required after renovation work is completed in order to obtain a certificate of approval. Homeowners are not allowed to occupy rooms that have undergone renovation until they have the certificate, but the Badgers were living on the second floor of the building prior to completing this final step of the building process.

Many homeowners neglect to obtain certificates of approval after completing renovation projects, either because they didn't realize they needed a final inspection or because they assumed their contractor had taken care of it, DeMarco said. The error is only discovered when the homeowners try to sell the house and the bank uncovers unresolved permits.

Stamford's building department launched an aggressive campaign last spring to close out open building permit files dating back to 2000. DeMarco said his office sent out 2,700 postcards to homeowners who still needed to complete final inspections and received responses from about 850 people.

The Badger home still had scaffolding attached to the outside Sunday, which indicated Borcina had not yet concluded his renovation work. On Wednesday, the only contractors at the site were with Servpro of Stamford, which sifted through the wreckage on behalf of the Badger family in search of family mementos.

"I was contacted by an anonymous person," Director of Operations Ernie Orgera said. "The family had contacted them and would like to know if there were any pictures or anything that could be salvaged. So I thought it would be a good idea for us to do that."

Anton Gjelevic, Servpro's project manager, said his company usually does recovery work prior to a building's demolition. His workers managed to pull a few stuffed animals from the debris Wednesday, he said.


Officials unclear if smoke detectors sounded the alarm
Kate King, Staff Writer, CT POST
Updated 12:14 a.m., Wednesday, December 28, 2011

STAMFORD -- City officials say it's unclear if fire detectors went off at 2267 Shippan Ave. on Christmas morning, when a fire ripped through the Victorian home overlooking Long Island Sound, killing three young girls and their grandparents as they tried to escape the blaze.

Director of Operations Ernie Orgera said it does not appear the home's hardwired smoke detection system was activated at the time, but Fire Marshal Barry Callahan said further investigation is needed before a definitive conclusion can be reached. The men spoke Tuesday, along with Mayor Michael Pavia and acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte, during a late-afternoon news conference at the Government Center.

"We don't believe there were any fire detection systems or smoke alarms activated in the house," Orgera said. "There is a system that is in the house that is ready to be hooked up for hardwired smoke detectors, which we don't believe was activated. There could have been a battery-operated system in there, but there wasn't a hardwired system in there."

The fire marshal said it is still unclear whether the home had fire detectors installed and whether alarms went off when the fire started sometime after 3 a.m. Sunday. Orgera's analysis of the house's building permits indicated a fire detection system was not activated in newly renovated parts of the home, but it is possible the original structure had smoke alarms installed.

Callahan's initial investigation concluded the fire originated in either a mudroom or trash bin enclosure at the rear of the house and was sparked by hot ash and embers swept from the fireplace into a plastic bag. He said the fire appeared to be "accidental in nature."

"We did an on-scene investigation but due to the structural instability of the building we weren't able to get to all areas of the building," Callahan said. "We're trying to determine whether smoke detection was present or not."

Callahan said his office needs to interview the fire's two survivors to find out whether the Shippan Avenue home had detectors installed and whether alarms went off during the fire. The girls' mother, Madonna Badger, escaped the blaze along with Michael Borcina, who had been hired to complete renovations on the home. Borcina owns Tiberias Construction, a high-end construction company operating in Fairfield County and New York.

Callahan said his office conducted an initial interview with Badger and Borcina at Stamford Hospital on Christmas Day and is trying to contact Badger for a follow-up discussion. Borcina was still listed in fair condition at the hospital Tuesday.

Conte said home fire detectors are sensitive enough to pick up the smoke from a burning cigarette and hardwired detection systems will set off alarms throughout the house once smoke is sensed in one part of the building.

"They activate pretty quickly and they're loud," he said. "They make a difference because any warning system that gives you a head start in a fire is going to help you."

Badger, 47, bought her 3,349-square-foot home about a year ago for $1.7 million and hired Borcina to perform extensive renovations on the 116-year-old house. Pavia said the construction included kitchen and bathroom renovations, as well as the addition of the mudroom and trash bin enclosure where the fire began.

The second floor of the house's three stories was also completely renovated with the exception of the master bedroom, Orgera said. Borcina was up to date with the inspections periodically required during construction jobs, but the newly renovated sections of the home had not undergone a final inspection and did not have a certificate of approval.

"Until they get a certificate of approval they should not be living on those floors that were renovated," Orgera said.

Stamford building officials last inspected the home's framing and electrical and plumbing systems in July and everything was up to code, Orgera said. Callahan said the Badger family was occupying the second floor of the building, which technically put them in violation of Stamford's building codes.

Contractors do not apply for approval certificates until all construction work has been completed. Conte said firefighters found scaffolding attached to the house when they arrived on the scene, which indicated renovations were still under way.

Stamford officials razed what remained of the three-story home on Monday due to safety concerns, Conte said.

"The structure was so weakened that we had to place ladders within the building, flat, so that the firefighters could crawl across them and distribute their weight as they did their searches," Conte said. "Once we recovered all the bodies, once the fire marshals had completed their technical investigation of the building, the building was not safe to be left standing. I thought the city was prudent and worked fast in taking that building down."

Conte said the building's demolition will not hinder the fire marshal's continuing investigation.

"They did the last of their investigation," he said. "They no longer needed the building to do their technical conclusion."

Members of the local and national media filled a sixth-floor conference room at the Government Center Tuesday and bombarded Stamford officials with repeated questions about the home's smoke detection system and building permits. Pavia said the questions will be answered through follow-up investigations.

"Mrs. Badger lost her three children and her two parents," Pavia said. "When we made the initial contact with Mrs. Badger the last thing on our minds to talk to her about was whether or not her building permit was valid or her smoke detectors were working or any of that. As the follow-up investigation continues, and it will continue ... those are questions that we will pursue. But not now."


Remember the "treble damages" provision is in the CT Statutes?
The mistakes that took 5 lives

NYPOST
By REUVEN FENTON in Stamford, Conn. and CHUCK BENNETT in New York
Last Updated: 8:45 AM, December 28, 2011
Posted: 12:51 AM, December 28, 2011

Two fatal mistakes may have cost the lives of the three little girls and their grandparents who died Christmas morning when a century-old Victorian mansion went up in flames and turned into a death trap.

Fire marshals in Stamford, Conn., said the owner’s boyfriend, contractor Michael Borcino, put still-smoldering embers from a yule log into some kind of a bag — and then left it leaning against an outside rear wall of the $1.7 million house.  The marshals said the embers had not been doused with water.

On the other side of the wall was a mud room. 

When the wall caught fire between 3 and 3:30 a.m., the five people sleeping on the second and third floors had no warning — because there were no functioning smoke detectors.  City official Ernie Orgera said a modern “hardwired” smoke detection system was being installed as part of ongoing renovations. But it hadn’t gone online in the five-bedroom home, which was built in 1895. And there was no evidence that battery-operated detectors had been in use.

The owner of the home, top fashion-advertising executive Madonna Badger, had stayed up late with Borcino to wrap Christmas gifts, a source said.  Then they went to bed on an upper floor of the huge, three-story house.  The girls, 10-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace, were sleeping on the third floor. Their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, were on the second floor.

“The fire entered the house quickly and spread throughout the first floor and up two interior vertical openings, trapping the occupants on the upper floors,” said Barry Callahan, the Stamford fire marshal.  By the time neighbors spotted the fire and called 911 at 4:52 a.m., the home had become an inferno, with flames shooting out the windows.

“There’s a huge fire at the home next door to us. The whole house is on fire . . . There’s three kids and a woman,” one horrified caller told 911.

As soon as those inside the burning home became aware of the impending disaster, the adults desperately raced to save the children.  Fire Chief Antonio Conte said a “male occupant” — identified by sources as Borcino — tried to get the twins from the third floor to the second. But, Conte said, “The heat drove them to be separated from [him].’’

In the smoke and confusion, the two girls both headed back to the third floor, but panicked and were separated from each another.

“Looks like one went back upstairs, and one was found with the grandmother at the bottom of the stairwell between the second and third floor,” Conte said.

Lomer, who had spent the previous night playing Santa Claus at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, came upon a terrified Lily.  The 71-year-old grandfather pulled her into his room, stacked a pile of books to the height of the window and perched her on top.  His plan was to crawl out on the wide ledge outside, then reach back in, grab his beloved granddaughter and pull her to safety.  But as soon as Lomer got out, he collapsed from smoke inhalation.

“When he went out the window, that’s when he succumbed,’’ said Conte. “And she died just inside the window. When he stepped out that window, his life ended.”

Meanwhile, a desperate Badger, 47, had escaped through a window onto the second-floor balcony above the carport, and began looking for any sign of her daughters or parents.  She climbed up the scaffolding surrounding the building and wound up on the roof, where firefighters brought her to safety.  Borcino, 52, had been pushed out the front door by the raging flames after he was separated from the twins.  He heroically tried to get back inside, and firefighters had to pull him back.

He alerted them that one of the girls was trapped on the second floor.

“[Rescue] crews went on to the second floor, because he told them where they were. They tried the second floor again, but were pushed back by the heat so they could not find the girls,” Conte said.

Firefighters were able to get a ladder to the third floor, but ran into extreme heat and poor visibility and could not find Lily.  Borcino remains in Stamford Hospital, where he is being treated for smoke inhalation and burns and has had only preliminary interviews with officials.  Stamford mayor Michael Pavia said the home did not have a certificate of occupancy, which it needed because of the renovations, and should not have been occupied.

Badger had been waiting for a final inspection at the time of the blaze, although the family had been living there about a year.

Borcino, who was in charge of the renovation, is an experienced contractor. He owns Tiberias Construction, which specializes in high-end jobs. His past clients have included a Donna Karan store and artist Alex Beard’s studio, according to his Web site.

Badger had pioneered Calvin Klein’s iconic 1990s marketing campaigns with “Marky” Mark Wahlberg, as well as the campaign for Kate Moss Obsession.  She has since founded the Manhattan branding firm Badger and Winters.

“Smoke detectors need milliseconds,” said Jim Bullock, a retired FDNY Deputy Chief, who runs the firm NY Fire Consultants, adding that an entire room needs just three minutes to become totally ablaze.

Badger’s brother, Wade Johnson, posted on Facebook, “Dad would want me to tell you all to please check your smoke detectors.’’

Fire-safety experts also warned that embers from a fireplace should always be stored safely.

“Put them in a metal container with a lid, and keep them a safe distance away from the home. At least 10 feet,” said Lorraine Carlie, of the National Fire Protection Association.

The girls’ father, Matthew Badger of Manhattan, was not home yesterday.  The enormity of the tragedy has weighed heavily on firefighters, with 70 of them receiving grief counseling.

“It was heartbreaking,” Conte said. “You [feel] like if you don’t make the rescue, you failed, and I don’t think anyone wants to fail.”

And hundreds of people have taken to Facebook to send their support to the Badger and Johnson families.

“I know the questions going through her mind. Why? And it will never get answered,” said Kirt Pickerign, who lost his wife, children and a nephew in a 1999 fire.


Officials searching for clues in deadly Stamford fire
Danbury News-Times
John Nickerson and Kate King, Staff Writers
Updated 10:02 a.m., Monday, December 26, 2011


STAMFORD -- The city is in mourning Monday as police and firefigthters investigate a massive, three-alarm fire that tore through a three-story Shippan Avenue home Christmas morning, killing three young girls and their grandparents.

Authorities returned Monday to the scene of the fire, which broke out just before 5 a.m. Sunday at 2267 Shippan Ave.

Madonna Badger, a prominent New York City advertising executive who bought the home last year for $1.7 million, escaped the blaze along with Michael Borcina, a friend and contractor who had been renovating the home.

A nursing supervisor at Stamford Hospital said Monday morning that Badger had been discharged, but that Borcina remained hospitalized and was in stable condition.

Stamford Police Sgt. Paul Guzda said Badger's three daughters -- a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins -- died in the fire. He said Badger's parents, who live in Heritage Village in Southbury and were visiting for the holiday, also died.

Badger's estranged husband, Matthew Badger, was at his home in lower Manhattan when the fire broke out, and was driven to the scene Sunday morning by Stamford police.

The cause of the fire had not been determined Monday morning, police and fire officials said. An excavator was brought in just after 8 a.m. to begin taking down part of the house.

Ocean Drive West resident Charles Mangano said he heard a man screaming for help as flames consumed the house shortly before dawn. Mangano said he saw rescue workers helping a middle-aged man and woman into Emergency Medical Services trucks.

"They were both obviously in a state of shock," Mangano said. "He was in his boxers and a T-shirt, with no shoes. They were leading him up to an EMS truck. The woman said -- she was mumbling -- and she said, `my whole life is in there.' "

Badger, 47, bought the 3,349-square-foot home at 2267 Shippan Ave. about a year ago from William and Marilyn Foster for $1.7 million. Reached by phone Sunday, Marilyn Foster said Badger was living in the home.

"(Badger) was the buyer and she was living there with her children," Foster said. "She has three children."

Badger is founder of Badger and Winters, a fashion branding consulting firm. She is listed on the company website as a "20-year veteran of the beauty and fashion business."

Smoke was still rising from the charred building early Sunday afternoon as Mayor Michael Pavia and Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte spoke to reporters during an emotional news conference at the scene. Conte said Stamford Fire & Rescue received the first report of the fire at 4:52 a.m. Firefighters tried to save the five other people trapped in the house, he said.

"First units on the scene attempted rescue within the structure, they were pushed back by intense flame and heat," Conte, said. "As a result we lost five Stamford residents."

Conte, a 38-year fire department veteran, held back tears as he spoke. Pavia, who Mangano said arrived on the scene shortly after 5 a.m., said it was a "terrible, terrible day in the city of Stamford."

"Our heart goes out for the family, friends of these people, as well as the firefighters and emergency medical people, police department and all that were on the scene and are, frankly, suffering as a result," Pavia said. "Our heart goes out to them and we hope they find peace soon. It's Christmas Day. There probably has not been a worse Christmas Day in the city of Stamford."

The roof of the house was collapsing Sunday morning and Conte said structural damage would hinder investigators from determining the cause of the blaze.

"With the condition of the building it will remain (under investigation) for a number of days until the fire marshal can get in," Conte said. "I would say it's a number of days before we actually find out how this occurred and what happened."

Mangano, who said his house is located diagonally behind the Shippan Avenue home, said his wife woke him early in the morning to tell him there was a huge fire at one of the neighbors' homes.

"I got dressed real quick and ran outside," Mangano said. "I heard somebody yelling `help, help, help me.' I started sprinting up my driveway and made the turn onto the street and then I saw there were tons and tons of fire apparatus here. So I just came up to see if there was anything I could do. I mean, there was nothing I could do."

Mangano said he did not know the home's residents, but walks his dogs past the house daily in warm weather. He said the home was under heavy construction this past summer.

All five victims were removed from the second floor of the burned building Sunday, Conte said.

Shippan Avenue resident Sam Cingari, who lives directly across the street from the house, said he was awakened at 4:45 a.m. Christmas morning to the sound of a woman screaming.

"There were flames coming out of the first-, second- and third-floor windows," Cingari said. "The entire house was engulfed in flames. All I could see is flames coming out of every window and porch of the house."

Cingari said he later learned it had been Madonna Badger he heard screaming.

"The reason she was screaming, of course, was because her family was inside the house," he said.

Stamford property records list the house as a single-family five-bedroom house with 10 rooms and 3.5 baths. The house was built in 1895, has one fireplace and central heat.

Badger, a fashion consultant, helped create major advertising campaigns for leading fashion brands, including the iconic Marky Mark underwear ads for Calvin Klein.

Raised in Kentucky, Badger began her career working as a graphic designer in the art department of Esquire magazine. Before starting her own company, she worked as an art director for several magazines and CRK, the in-house advertising agency for designer Calvin Klein.

Badger & Winters has worked with Proctor & Gamble, CoverGirl, A/X Armani Exchange, Emanuel Ungaro and Vera Wang, among other high-profile corporations.



Fire marshal: Someone ignited blaze
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Devon Lash, Staff Writer

Posted: 11/19/2008 02:42:42 AM EST

STAMFORD - A person started the fire that destroyed an empty Cedar Street warehouse and other South End buildings Sunday, though it is unclear whether the act was deliberate or accidental, a fire marshal said.

The building showed signs that "people had found ways inside," Assistant Fire Marshal Charles Spaulding said.  It could have been a person or persons who did not intend to start the blaze or who had an ulterior motive, he said.  Spaulding ruled that the building had no working power source, and weather or other natural event did not cause the fire.  The case still is under investigation, he said.  Neighbors said the warehouse was not secured, and they could see the side windows were not boarded up. The plastic perimeter fence had been down for years, neighbors said.

"People go back there all the time," said John Wooten, who lives on Stone Street. "We would call the cops, keep the streetlights on. Someone was going to get hurt in there."

Despite their efforts to report violations to police, the health department and housing court in Norwalk, people have continued going in and out of the building, Wooten said.  His wife, Pat, said Sunday's fire was a realization of "our worst nightmare."

By calling the city, she said neighbors learned that one of the building's owners is Joseph Capalbo. Neighbors called Capalbo but never heard back from him, Pat Wooten said.

Capalbo did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.

Another owner, James Tooher, a principal of Cedar Street Associates LLC, wrote in an e-mail, "We purchased a blighted, unsecured, contaminated property. We have had it cleaned and it has been adequately secured during our ownership with the ultimate intention of improving the site and the neighborhood."
The fire, which began at about 1:45 p.m. Sunday, destroyed the empty warehouse and a multi-family home at 43 Cedar St. It also damaged another home at 49 Cedar St. and destroyed two garages and at least seven vehicles.

About 22 people were displaced, an American Red Cross representative has said. No one was injured, Spaulding said.  The warehouse and the two-story house at 43 Cedar St. will be razed next week after the city obtains demolition permits, Spaulding said.

The Advocate has asked for records of any violations and complaints filed with the health department or police.


Next fire incident in CT? 
Check previous one out...

City Works To Secure Mill After Pipes Stolen 
DAY
By Claire Bessette    
Published on 9/16/2007 

          
Norwich — City officials are working with the owner of a large vacant mill on Franklin Street to improve security at the site after vandals recently removed copper piping from the building's sprinkler system.

The piping has been repaired, but city officials remain concerned, with a recent rash of copper thefts in the region and the mill's location in a densely populated downtown neighborhood. The mill occupies the block between Franklin and Chestnut streets and is across Willow Street from the Artspace apartment complex.

Fire Chief Kenneth Scandariato said the sprinkler system does work in the building. City officials allowed the owners to turn off the water in the vacant mill, because if thieves cut the pipes, water would run uncontrolled in the building. The system now is set up so that it can be charged with water when needed for fire suppression, Scandariato said.

Scandariato and city blight control officer Edward Martin have been working with the building owner to clean the exterior to remove brush and debris and to secure the building against trespassers. This week, Scandariato asked Norwich Public Utilities to install two 4,000-watt spotlights on the mill to improve lighting for police patrolling the area.

Owner Maurice Mozinia, of New York City, expressed frustration Friday with the problem of copper thefts and intruders. Mozinia has made several trips to Norwich to check on the building and pledged to seal every opening.

Mozinia said he did not believe the recent copper pipe theft was caused by vagrants. The pipe was large, 5 inches in diameter, and colored black. He believes someone had to know that the material was copper.

“We didn't even know it was copper,” he added.

Mozinia said he has read recent news stories involving copper thefts throughout southeastern Connecticut and believes state and local governments could reduce the problem by ordering scrap metal yards to stop buying from “walk-ins.” Scrap yards also could keep better records to help police investigating thefts, he said.

The price of copper has increased five-fold in the past six years, and thefts of copper from commercial buildings and homes also have increased.

This past summer, vandals broke into three transformers at the abandoned Capehart Mill in Greeneville and released about 600 gallons of PCB-laced oil that saturated the ground and flowed through the drainage system into the Shetucket River. The state Department of Environmental Protection hired a cleanup firm to remove the transformers and several truck loads of saturated soil, but oil continues to leak into the river.

Earlier this week, New London police arrested two men for allegedly removing copper downspouts from the Regional Multicultural Magnet School. The same two men had been arrested previously for allegedly stealing copper from the former Norwich Hospital in Preston.

In another case, the former director of facilities at Mystic Seaport was arrested by Stonington police for allegedly ordering more than $45,000 worth of copper wire for the museum and then selling it to scrap yards and keeping the money.

Mozinia said if scrap yards were mandated to require identification before accepting the material, “watch how fast the thefts would go down.”



Scrap yard hit by fire
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Natasha Lee
Published May 22 2007

STAMFORD - The fire marshal is investigating a hazardous waste fire that erupted at a South End scrap yard yesterday afternoon, sending flames 25 feet high.

Twenty-eight Stamford Fire & Rescue firefighters were called to Rubino Brothers Inc. at 560 Canal St. just after 2 p.m., when two 55-gallon hazardous fluid containers began burning, Assistant Fire Chief John McCabe said.

The flames spread to two scrapped cars and bellowing smoke could be seen from downtown, he said. No one was injured.  Stamford police blocked off Canal Street from Henry Street to Jefferson Street.  Business at the auto and waste recycling yard was not disrupted as several employees continued working while a half-dozen others watched firefighters from the sidewalk.

The fire was extinguished within 20 minutes using foam, McCabe said.

Firefighters remained on site for several hours. The U.S. Coast Guard was called to ensure fluids didn't drain into Long Island Sound.


Suit planned over Yale & Towne fire (see stories below)
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Zach Lowe, Staff Writer
Published October 15 2006

STAMFORD -- Nearly 100 antiques dealers plan to sue the city for failing to inspect a faulty sprinkler system at a building at the old Yale & Towne site before it burned down in April, according to a notice attorneys sent to city officials.

The suit would be the second to arise out of the six-alarm fire that destroyed eight businesses and caused millions of dollars in damage at the South End property on April 3. Attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit in July against the property owners after investigations showed they did nothing to repair a faulty sprinkler system inside the buildings at 735 Canal St., court records show.

The new notice of a lawsuit, sent late last month, blames Stamford's fire and building inspectors for failing to check the building or force the owners to fix fire code violations, according to a copy of the notice.

The notice is not a lawsuit, said the Stamford attorney who filed it, Mario DiNatale. Attorneys must tell any municipality of plans to sue within six months of the event that caused the damage, DiNatale said.  The firm will continue to investigate the cause of the blaze before filing any lawsuit, DiNatale said.

The fire started in a small piano shop before spreading to several other businesses, including the 17,000-square-foot Stamford Antiques Center. More than 100 dealers rented space in the center, which was located inside Building 15 on the Yale & Towne property, attorneys have said.

The building is owned by Antares Investment Partners of Greenwich.

The fire grew out of control before firefighters arrived because the sprinkler system in the area was broken, according to the results of an investigation the city's fire marshals conducted after the blaze.

"We basically lost our business," said Jerry Pivak, co-owner of Graybeard Antiques in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Pivak stored about 200 items worth about $80,000 at the antique center. The items, none of which could be salvaged, amounted to 90 percent of his collection, Pivak said.

"We miss the business," he said. "It's gone, and I don't know if we can ever get it back again."

The notice blames the city for allowing Antares to rent out the property "knowing there were serious defects and flaws in the sprinkler system."

Barry Callahan, the city's chief fire marshal, admitted in April the city's nine marshals cannot inspect all 6,000 or so businesses in the city each year as required by state law. The last formal inspection of the Yale & Towne site was in 2002, city records show.

Callahan said he could not comment on the notice because he had not seen it.  He has said the marshals have struggled to make all their inspections as the number of businesses in the city has jumped from about 3,600 in 2001 to more than 6,000 last year.

Marshals inspected about 99 percent of businesses in 2000-01 but only about 80 percent in 2005-06, Callahan has said.

"It's just a physical impossibility," Callahan said in April. "The ultimate responsibility for monitoring the building lies with the owner."

The notice also names the city's acting chief building inspector, Joseph Tarzia, and the city's zoning inspector.  Tarzia said the Building Department is responsible for construction sites, not fire code violations at finished buildings and businesses.

The first lawsuit, filed in July by the New York firm Bainton McCarthy, targets the owners, not the city.  The suit claims Antares didn't bother fixing the sprinklers because they planned to tear down the buildings.  Antares has filed plans to build apartment complexes and businesses on the Yale & Towne site.

Antares knew the sprinkler system was broken a year ago when they bought the site from Heyman Properties of Westport, company officials have said.

But the system broke in the mid-1990s under Heyman's watch and was never repaired, the city's investigation found. Problems started when Heyman shut down the heat to parts of the building no one was renting, the investigation showed.

Water froze inside the sprinkler system's pipes. When the ice melted, the pipes cracked open and rusted, fire officials have said. Heyman did not repair the sprinkler system in the late 1990s when new tenants moved in. They shut the system down around that time, records show.

Heyman has not been named in any lawsuit.

Bruce Macleod, chief operating officer for Antares, has said officials planned to repair the sprinkler system this spring and summer. They had to wait for warm weather because the heat in the building would have to be turned off during repairs, Macleod has said.

The fire destroyed the buildings before repairs started, officials have said.


Yale & Towne shops sue Antares
By ANNA GUSTAFSON, Hour Staff Writer
Sunday, July 30, 2006

STAMFORD — Attorneys representing about 100 Stamford Antique Center dealers filed a class-action lawsuit against Antares Investment Partners of Greenwich, owners of Yale & Towne, which was ravaged in an April 3 fire.

The suit, filed on July 21, states that had Antares Investment Partners of Greenwich fixed the faulty sprinkler system, dealers would not have suffered millions of dollars of damages lost in the fire.

Attorneys for Bainton McCarthy LLC of New York filed the suit against Antares Yale & Towne SPE, LLC; Antares Manager Group, LLC; James P. Cabrera; Paul A. Haller of Haller Piano; Goldman Sachs Commercial Mortgage Capital L.P.; and Greenwich Capital Financial Products, Inc., to recover the millions of dollars lost.

The complaint alleges that the businesses were destroyed in the fire as a result of "the willful failure of the defendants to repair flagrant fire code violations."

Because Antares intended to demolish the Yale & Towne buildings, the complaint states the development company "had no motive to make the legally and morally required repairs to the fire suppression system that they knew were required."

Instead, attorneys said, Antares continued to collect tenants' rent while their development project worked its way through various governmental approvals, thereby "exposing the lives and livelihoods of the tenants to the horrific risk of fire that came to pass last April."

Upon purchasing the Yale & Towne property in October 2005, the plaintiffs said Antares was aware of multiple fire code and other safety deficiencies, including a broken and disconnected sprinkler system. Once the six-alarm fire began in Haller Piano, it spread quickly.  A Stamford fire marshal report concluded that the fire may not have spread to the businesses near the piano shop had there been a working sprinkler system.

According to the report issued several weeks ago, the fire spread quickly due to flammable liquids within Haller Piano; the lack of an operating sprinkler system; and because the building was old and partially made of wood.  Antares spokesperson Ben Branch told the fire department that due to broken pipes, the previous property owner had shut off the sprinkler system for building 15. System repairs were scheduled for spring 2006, he said.

Defendants did not return calls for comment.

While no lives were lost in the fire, antique dealer Christina Benisch said years of hard work were lost.

"People lost years and years and years of their life's work," Benisch said in a previous interview. "People lost up to $400,000 worth of stuff."

Ridgely Whitmore Brown, a lawyer for Bainton McCarthy, said the owners were lucky no one died.

"It is a miracle that no one was seriously injured or killed and that miracle occurred very much in spite of the defendants' conduct," he said. 
Brown said they will be ready for the trial on the issue of liability by year end, although a judge must first approve the suit.