Fallout From NYPD Evidence Warehouse Fire Still Unknown: Advocates

March 29, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

NEW YORK CITY — The fallout from a massive fire that destroyed mountains of NYPD evidence stored in a Red Hook warehouse remains unknown, advocates said Tuesday.

Advocates with The Legal Aid Society blasted City Hall and police officials for failing to provide answers on how much “vital evidence” — including DNA that could lead to exonerations — went up in smoke during the fire three months ago.

“No one’s personal freedom should be put at risk because of this incident,” said Jenny S. Cheung, supervising attorney of the DNA Unit at The Legal Aid Society, in a statement.

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“There needs to be a coordinated effort by the City to ensure that the accused and wrongfully convicted are not punished for this accident — anything less would be an egregious miscarriage of justice.”

An NYPD spokesperson told Patch there was little left after the fire.

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“Virtually all the evidence that was located within the Erie Basin Hanger was destroyed, with the exception of 8 barrels, which are being reviewed and documented,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“Currently, the NYPD is working closely with the District Attorney’s offices, on a case-by-case basis, to verify the location and status of each specific evidence request.”

The Red Hook warehouse and auto pound burst into flames Dec. 13, prompting a massive FDNY response.

An FDNY investigation found the blaze likely began with an electrical blowout in a conduit leading to an exit sign, officials said last week.

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“Relating to the physical structure, a comprehensive capital project to address the electrical grid was in progress, and construction was about to commence,” an NYPD spokesperson said.

The complex had been used for evidence storage in cases going back 30 years, advocates said. They’ve consistently called upon city and police officials to produce lists of evidence and cases impacted, including in a letter sent to Mayor Eric Adams about a week after the fire.

“Since the first DNA exoneration in 1989, preservation of biological evidence has proved critical in righting wrongful convictions,” the letter states. “The recent fire in Red Hook extinguished the hopes of scores of people who were eagerly awaiting DNA testing to exonerate them. This loss of critical evidence has far-reaching consequences for New Yorkers.”

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