Firefighter's Wife Sues Building Owners Over Husband's Death

By Karen Araiza
|  Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013  |  Updated 4:50 PM EDT
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Firefighters Union Reveals "Smoking Gun" in Kensington Warehouse Fire Deaths

Flames pouring out of the abandoned Kensington warehouse on the morning of April 10, 2012.


The wife of a Philadelphia firefighter is suing the owners of a vacant Kensington warehouse that burned down last year, killing her husband and another firefighter.

Captain Robert Peter Neary, a 37-year-old veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department died, along with Lieutenant Daniel Sweeney.

Neary's wife, Diane Neary, is suing the owners and property managers of the warehouse at 1817 East York Street, claiming that the "New Yorkers who collect and neglect" knew what sort of risks their huge, empty warehouse presented in the neighborhood, but through an attitude of indifference and pattern of neglect, chose to ignore those risks.

Nahman Lichtenstein and Yechial Lichtenstein of Brooklyn and Toby Moskovits, who is from Manhattan, are all named in the suit.

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Firefighters Union Reveals "Smoking Gun" in Kensington Warehouse Fire Deaths

Local 22 gets more aggressive about who they think should take responsibility for the deaths of Lt. Robert Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney. They both died fighting a multi-alarm fire at an abandoned warehouse in Kensington last month.
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The large warehouse spanned half the block when the intense fire, which was started by a squatter, spread quickly and burned for hours the morning of April 9, 2012.

Neary, 60, and Sweeney, 25, died inside an adjacent furniture store. They'd gone back inside on a routine sweep to make sure the fire had not reignited. That's when a wall from the warehouse collapsed through the store, burying them in bricks and debris.

"Robert Peter Neary suffered severe injuries, excruciating pain and suffering, and was suffocated to death," according to the suit.

Residents in the Kensington neighborhood had long complained that the building was dangerous, unsealed and tax delinquent.

The suit claims that from September of 2008 until the day of the fire, the owners and property managers "deliberately and recklessly" failed to secure and maintain the property and allowed it to stay in a persistent state of disrepair.

For the three-and-a-half years that their building sat vacant, drug dealers, looters, prostitutes and squatters lived in it illegally, according to the suit.

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Two community organizations -- the East Kinsington Neighborhood Association and the New Kensington Community Development Corporation -- complained repeatedly to the owners, warning them of the dangerous conditions and demanding that they take action.

On March 30, 2012, according to the suit, Yechial Lichtenstein claimed in an interview that the warehouse was being "kept up.

A lawyer representing the owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Associated Press or NBC10.

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