The New York Daily News reported the fire was cited in a January 31 letter from attorneys for Keith Raniere, the alleged founder of the NXIVM cult, who wrote that inmates were experiencing “extreme deprivation,” in freezing temperatures without “any means” of warmth.
“MDC has been without heat, electricity, hot water, commissary or warm food since Jan. 27, 2019, following an apparent fire in the institution,” the letter reportedly said. “Raniere has also informed us that the corrections officers are wearing masks to mask the smell of noxious fumes, but have not provided any masks to the inmates.”
Lawmakers took to Twitter to condemn the conditions, with many rallying behind the hashtag “#SunsetParkGulag,” which refers to a system of forced labor camps established in Joseph Stalin’s dictatorial reign of the Soviet Union.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said on Twitter the situation was “inhumane and a violation of the detainees’ constitutional rights,” adding that “The Bureau of Prisons needs to fix this immediately.”
City Council member Jumaane Williams tweeted Saturday that he had visited the jail and found the conditions “obscene and unconscionable.”
“The building is still without heat,” Williams wrote. “This is an issue of human rights abuse, and people are paying the price for this massive and inexcusable failure.”
Councilmember Lander tweeted late Friday that there was some heat, but endorsed a Saturday afternoon protest organized in part by Fight Back Bay Ridge that would demand full restoration of electricity, heat, hot water, and warm meals or relocation for inmates.