Happy Land fire



The Happy Land Fire was an arson fire which killed 87 people trapped in an unlicensed social club called "Happy Land" in New York City, on March 25 1990. Most of the victims were ethnic Hondurans celebrating Carnival.[1] Unemployed Cuban refugee Julio González, whose former girlfriend was employed at the club, was arrested shortly after and ultimately convicted of arson and murder.

The incident

Before the blaze, Happy Land was ordered closed for building code violations in November of 1988. Violations included no fire exits, alarms or sprinkler system. No follow-up by the fire department was documented.[2]

That evening González had argued with his former girlfriend Lydia Feliciano, a coat check girl at the club. González was ejected by the bouncer. He was heard to scream drunken threats. He returned to the establishment with a plastic container of gasoline which he spread on the only staircase into the club.

The fire exits had been blocked to prevent people from entering without paying the cover charge. In the panic that ensued, a few people escaped by breaking a metal gate over one door.

González then returned home, took off his gasoline-soaked clothes and fell asleep. He was arrested a few hours later. Once advised of his rights, he talked freely of how he caused the fire. A medical examination found him to be sane.

Response

Found guilty on August 19, 1991, of 87 counts of arson and 87 counts of murder, González was sentenced to 174 twenty-five year sentences, to be served concurrently. It was the longest prison term ever imposed in the state of New York. He will be eligible for parole in March 2015.

The building that housed Happy Land was managed in part by Jay Weiss, husband of actress Kathleen Turner.[3] The New Yorker quoted Turner saying, "the fire was unfortunate but could have happened at a McDonald's."[4] The building's owner, Alex DiLorenzo 3d, and leaseholders Weiss and Morris Jaffe were found not criminally responsible, since they had tried to close the club and evict the tenant.[5]

The street outside the former Happy Land social club (which was located on the northwest corner of Southern Boulevard and East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx) has been renamed "The Plaza of the Eighty-Seven" as a means of memorializing the victims. Five of the victims were students at nearby Theodore Roosevelt High School, which held a memorial service for the victims in April 1990.

The event was the subject of the Duran Duran song, "Sin of the City", and a Joe Jackson song, Happyland. It was also mentioned in the Jay-Z song, "You, Me, Him, and Her". A fictionalized version of the case, where it was an arson for fire insurance scam, was featured on Law & Order.

References

1. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (March 26, 1990). Fire in The Bronx; 87 Die in Blaze at Illegal Club; Police Arrest Ejected Patron; Worst New York Fire Since 1911. New York Times
2. ^ McKinley, James C. Jr. (March 26, 1990). Fire in the Bronx; Happy Land Reopened and Flourished After Being Shut as a Hazard. New York Times
3. ^ Barbanel, Josh (March 27, 1990). Fire in The Bronx; Tracing the Club's Owners. New York Times
4. ^ Logan, Andy (April 23, 1990). Happy Land. The New Yorker
5. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (November 16, 1990). Prosecutor Clears Landlords In Fatal Social Club Arson. New York Times

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Julio González (born circa 1954) is a Cuban-born warehouse worker and arsonist responsible for the Happy Land Fire that killed 87 people in the Bronx, New York City, on March 25, 1990. It is one of the largest mass murders in United States history.
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Theodore Roosevelt High School was a public secondary school located in The Bronx, New York City, United States. It was first organized November 14, 1918. When Theodore Roosevelt died on January 6, 1919, the Board of Education decided to give the school his name.
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Owner The New York Times Company
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Staff Writers 350
Founded 1851
Price USD 1.
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