REPORT: Man Arrested After NYC Squatters Allegedly Set Home On Fire

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Mariane Angela Contributor
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One man was arrested after a group of squatters allegedly escalated their months-long terror campaign against local residents by setting a NYC house on fire in November, Fox News reported Friday.

Cheng Chen, 46, was arrested after a fire allegedly caused by squatters put a New York City neighborhood in the news, according to Fox News. These squatters allegedly had been causing trouble for months in Brooklyn. Their actions, which included setting a house on fire in November, caused damage totaling approximately $900,000 and have led to urgent calls for changes in the law, the New York Post reported.

Chen confessed to starting the fire in a statement. “The fire was caused by candles,” Chen told police, according to a criminal complaint, Fox News stated. “I was smoking a cigarette, lit a candle. While I had the stove on to heat up the water and to keep myself warm, [I] went downstairs to take a shower. When I came back, I saw flames and smoke everywhere.”

Although he said it was an accident, authorities called it intentional and reckless. They convicted Chen of arson and criminal mischief, giving him a six-month jail sentence, Fox News reported. (RELATED: Louisiana Man Charged With Arson That Killed His Three Kids)

The fire is part of a bigger problem with squatters in the neighborhood, Fox News reported. Residents have faced many thefts, including of security cameras and water, and threats to their safety. The issue is so serious that NYC Councilwoman Susan Zhuang and residents are pushing for big changes to squatter’s rights laws. They point out how squatters are taking over the lives and homes of hardworking families, ABC 7 reported.

“In our neighborhood, we don’t have the Hamptons houses,” Zhuang told reporters, according to the New York Post. “We the people have the small houses. We work hard, check by check. They are hardworking families that pay their mortgages from paycheck to paycheck. Meanwhile, squatters enter their home while they are on vacation. People’s lives are turned upside down.”