Property owner facing violations in Zerega Avenue porch collapse that killed 8-year-old

An 8-year-old was killed outside her Zerega Avenue home after a porch handrail collapsed on her on Aug. 2, 2021.
Photos Adrian Childress

NYC building officials have issued a series of violations against the property owner of a Zerega Avenue apartment after an investigation found that his poor building maintenance contributed to a porch column collapse that killed an eight-year-old girl earlier this month.

Ahmed Mehraj, the property owner of 1433 Zerega Ave., is being cited for improper building maintenance, including three additional violations for illegal occupancy and improper egress of an unpermitted cellar on the premises and illegal piping and metering on a faulty utility.

A hearing for these four violations has been scheduled at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) for Oct. 29.

On Aug. 2, at 8 p.m., 8-year-old Fatima Jannat Chowdhury died after a marble handrail outside her 1433 Zerega Ave., home collapsed on her while she played with a friend, according to authorities.

Chowdhury was with a friend on the front porch and as the two attempted to squeeze through the marble columns, a 10-foot section of granite balustrade fell off the porch and struck the child. Chowdhury was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center, where she later succumbed to her injuries at the hospital.

The girl’s aunt told investigators that the family only moved into the apartment three or four months ago. However, the family was warned to be careful of the loose banisters by the owner, according to authorities.

Andrew Rudansky, spokesperson for the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), told the Bronx Times that their preliminary investigation found that an illegal apartment had been constructed in the cellar of the building, without permits from the city and without adequate egress for the tenants.

Ahmed Mehraj, the property owner of 1443 Zerega Ave., is facing multiple building code violations and possible liability for the death of one of a tenant. Mehraj was also issued an order to vacate the premises by the city Department of Buildings.

Prior to the incident, the DOB had not received any reports of structural issues at this building or with the front porch.

However, this is not the first violation issued against Mehraj, as there are three citations on the Westchester Square property dating back to 2016. The three citations include an illegal conversion of a basement into an apartment, illegal plastering in the basement apartment, and a complaint that the basement window’S small size led to flooding of the apartment in May 2016.

According to the DOB’s online records, the NYPD requested a structural stability inspection of the front porch just two hours after the incident. The DOB also issued a partial vacation order of the cellar, and all affected tenants have been offered emergency relocation assistance by the American Red Cross.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes. 

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