There’s more information today about the fatal fire at 124 Ludlow. 72-year old Claudette Rivera died yesterday, following a terrible mishap with her gas stove. Neighbors said the fire started after Rivera lit the burners to keep warm and the flames caught on her sleeve.
Residents told the New York Times she had lived in the building for almost 50 years — and that her husband, a preacher, died a few years back. The Wall Street Journal reported that her husband was a jazz musician. Neighbors told the Journal Rivera was a popular figure in their building:
“She was very caring. She would ask how your day was,” said Aaron Eckerle, 27. “She was very sincere. She asked about the goings on in the building.” Another neighbor, Marla Yost, 36, described many people in the neighborhood as “trust fund babies” who had moved in fairly recently as the area was becoming more gentrified. But Ms. Yost said Ms. Rivera was a mainstay in the neighborhood. “She’s just part of the Lower East Side,” Ms. Yost said.
Rivera had a tough time getting around. She used a walker and frequently had difficulty reaching her second floor apartment, the Journal indicated:
Ellen Koenigsberg, who owns a vintage clothing store called “Ellen” across the street from Ms. Rivera’s building, said Ms. Rivera “probably should have been in assisted living a long time ago… But she wanted to be on her own,” Ms. Koenigsberg said. “She was stubborn. She wanted to be independent.” To remain independent, Mr. Koenigsberg said, Ms. Rivera “relied on a lot of people [in the community] to help her.” For instance, upstairs neighbor Eoin Foyle, a 31-year-old bar owner, said he often helped Ms. Rivera carry her groceries into the building.
According to the Times, “…residents said the building normally had adequate heat and hot water, though the Fire Department said it had gone out Thursday night.” But Channel 4 reported:
It’s unclear if Rivera had no heat at all or was using the stove to make her apartment warmer, source said. Tenants have not made any heat related complaints to the city in the past year — just one complaint about bed bugs, said the office of Housing Preservation and Development. The six-story building also had no open violations, said the agency. The last boiler violation was about a decade ago and the building passed a boiler inspection in October, according to the Department of Buildings’ website.