Man Arrested After NYC Squatters Sets Home Ablaze

Daily Report April 08,2024

A man was arrested after a group of squatters wreaked havoc on a Brooklyn block for months, stealing from and threatening neighbors before burning a house to the ground last November.

According to Fox News, residents say the group of squatters took up residence in the Dyker Heights neighborhood during summer and went around stealing security cameras and other goods from surrounding houses and directly threatening neighbors.

The man, identified as Cheng Chen, was arrested and charged with arson and criminal mischief after the November fire. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to six months in prison.

Chen claimed the fire was accidentally started by a candle he lit in the house.

“I was smoking a cigarette, lit a candle,” Chen said. “While I had the stove on to heat the water and to keep myself warm, I went downstairs to take a shower. When I came back, I saw flames and smoke everywhere.”

Authorities did not, however, believe the fire was an accident.

According to the New York Post, the blaze caused damages of more than $900,000 at the home.

During a Gravesend press conference, NYC Councilwoman Susan Zhuang called for changes to the laws regarding squatter’s rights. Zhuang’s call came as a result of the arson and other similar squatter troubles that have hit the city in recent times. ,

Frustrated residents showed pictures of the burned Brooklyn home to express their concerns.

“In our neighborhood, we don’t have the Hamptons houses,” she said. “We, the people, have the small houses. We work hard, check by check. They are hardworking families that pay their mortgages from paycheck to paycheck. Meanwhile, squatters enter their home while they are on vacation. People’s lives are turned upside down.”

The councilwoman also pointed out the increasing number of stories of homes and businesses being taken over by squatters in the last several months.

Also at the press conference, Ming Zhu, who lives two houses down from the razed Brooklyn home, called upon politicians to clarify tenancy laws.

“This is New York City, the greatest city in the world. We have to make the city better,” she said. “Why do the city and the state make laws to make those people to make an easier life for them? We pay for everything. Those people don’t do anything, and they get it better than us. This is completely out of control.”

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