2000-09-23 / Front Page

Near Tragedy Averted

By Swift NYPD Action

Elderly Arthur "Artie" Stein had lived alone in his Surfside apartment in Rockaway Park for several years. For the past year or more, those who were his immediate neighbors on the floor worried about the fact that he was never seen leaving the apartment. None of the neighbors interviewed had ever observed family or friends visiting Artie. The only visible activity at his door occurred when local restaurants delivered take-out meals and then concluded their transactions by taking Artie’s garbage bag to the trash room. To complicate matters, those who caught a rare glimpse of Artie accepting food bags at the door, could see he was in a visibly unkempt condition, reportedly looking for all the world like a modern day Rip Van Winkle. Residents recall that shortly after Stein first moved in, management had to deal with an extensive vermin outbreak in his apartment that affected many of the other tenants. Neighbors were troubled as well by the continuing foul odor that emanated from the apartment month after month, and year after year. Many residents recalled telephoning Dayton Operating Company in this regard and getting such responses as "We will call Steins’ sister," or, "We sent someone up to check the apartment and everything seemed alright." But those who were in the front lines on Arthur’s floor knew better.

In November of 1999, neighbors decided to take action in hopes of obtaining help for this elderly recluse. A letter was prepared and signed by many of Mr. Steins’ fellow residents on the floor. It detailed his serious isolation and the related health and safety concerns that troubled his neighbors. To be certain that this letter reached Dayton Management Co., it was sent by registered mail with return receipt. Copies were hand delivered to the local fire department officials and sent to the New York City Board of Health. Sadly, the inaction continued.

But late last week, longtime Rockaway resident David Bentley returned home to Surfside after being away for several days. Reaching the door to his apartment at about 10 p.m., Bentley noted the usual stench in the hallway was worse than ever. He immediately reported this to Lyons Security in the lobby via Officer Downs. Downs called for Officer Green, his supervisor at Lyons. Both agreed that something seemed wrong when Stein failed to answer repeated knocks at his door. Bentley then asked for the police to be called.

During the next two hours, NYPD went to work. Under the direction of Sergeant Newton of the 100 Precinct, they attempted to reach the building superintendent before making the decision to "take down the door." A special police task force was called in to open Steins’ apartment. Newton also had the foresight to have EMS staff summoned in advance. Neighbors at the scene were impressed with her command of the operation.

When the door was finally opened at about midnight, the air in the room was so foul that police had to use facemasks and special canisters of odor absorbing crystals in order to safely enter. Stein was found, collapsed on the floor in a corner, in a condition that one of the officers described as "…the worst I’ve ever seen." But Stein was still alive, and EMS personnel went immediately to work. Stein was rushed to Peninsula Hospital where at last he can have the kind of medical attention and appropriate placement that have been so long overdue.

Score another life-saving triumph for New York’s Finest!


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