Two young girls died Wednesday after they sustained burns from steam inside a Bronx apartment that serves as part of a city homeless shelter program, officials said.
Scylee Vayoh Ambrose, 1, and Ibanez Ambrose, 2, were found on the floor by their mother around noon inside the apartment on Hunts Point Avenue, between Spofford and Lafayette avenues in Hunts Point, cops said.
City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., who represents Hunts Point, said the girls’ injuries stemmed from a “radiator explosion.”
Both girls were taken to Lincoln Medical & Mental Health Center, where they were pronounced dead, the NYPD said. The city medical examiner will determine the cause of death.
The city Department of Homeless Services uses five apartments in the 48-unit building as part of its cluster-site shelter program, a source said.
Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks vowed to remove the other shelter families from the building.
“We are devastated by this tragedy. We are investigating and taking steps to immediately transfer the four other families being sheltered at this location to another shelter,” Banks said in a statement.
Public Advocate Letitia James lashed out at DHS following the girls’ deaths, saying the family shouldn’t have been housed in a cluster site to begin with.
“The cluster site program provides substandard housing to some of the neediest families in New York City, and despite promising to phase out the program, the administration has instead renewed contracts,” she said in a statement. “It is unforgivable that the City continues to enter into contracts with providers who do not ensure that these apartments are habitable, and today, we witnessed the lethal consequences of this neglect.”
Salamanca said the investigation into the cause of death has only just begun and offered his prayers to the girls’ family.
“In the coming days, I anticipate we will learn more about what caused this terrible tragedy following a complete investigation,” he said in a statement.
“We’ve lost two more of our youngest, most vulnerable New Yorkers,” Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement, adding that he will work to get answers to what happened. “It comes as the homeless population has just reached yet another record high, and the number of children in the DHS system is soaring. We have to do better.”
A spokesman for the Department of Buildings said an investigation is ongoing.