The Day – New London man arrested for puncturing tires is now charged with trespassing on a high-rise fire
New London – The man accused of puncturing tires in New London earlier this week now faces a charge of criminal trespassing in connection with a fire at the vacant Crystal Avenue apartment complex.
Police arrested Jason Castro-Campus, 39, at the scene of Thursday morning’s fire, which the fire marshal’s office determined was intentionally started. The fire started on the third floor of Building A of the former Thames River Apartments at 48 Crystal Ave.
The blaze, Mayor Michael Passero said, accelerated plans to go to city council and ask for the funds needed to complete demolition of the skyscrapers.
Fire Marshal Vernon Skau said the fire occurred in a bathtub in a third-floor apartment and in a stairwell near the apartment. The reason the fire was started is unclear and part of an ongoing investigation. City officials have in the past expressed concern that break-ins by vandals or homeless people could be a problem until the buildings are demolished.
Castro-Campus has a last known address at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center. He was held in lieu of $5,000 bond when he was arrested and still faces 39 counts of third-degree criminal mischief in connection with the tire blowouts in the Brainard and Mercer Streets area. He was not charged with setting the fire.
Firefighters had responded to Thursday’s blaze in heavy fog at 7:28 a.m. and found Castro-Campus in the building. He was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
Mutual aid was provided by Waterford, Poquonnock Bridge and Naval Submarine Base Fire Services, together with ambulances from Waterford and Groton.
New London Fire Chief Thomas Curcio said firefighters searched the entire complex to ensure no one was still inside before the building where the fire occurred was sealed .
The buildings, formerly a federally subsidized 124-unit apartment complex for low-income families, have been vacant since 2018. The city purchased the building from the New London Housing Authority in 2018 shortly after a cooperative effort secured federal housing vouchers and displaced families. in private accommodation.
The exodus from the property was prompted by repeated complaints about deferred maintenance and horrendous living conditions. A lawsuit filed by residents has also forced the housing authority to take action.
Passero said the first phase of demolition – the removal of hazardous materials – is already complete and the buildings could collapse as early as this month.
The council in June approved the choice of Stamford Wrecking Company for the remediation and demolition of the buildings. Estimates for the work were $3.5 million, which was fully covered by public funds. Passero said the costs of transporting and removing tons of demolition material to a suitable landfill site have increased significantly since the first cost estimates.
“The cost of transporting and disposing of demolition materials has skyrocketed from the original estimate of $87 per ton to $130.00 per ton,” Passero said in a memo to city council.
He plans to submit a request for an additional $708,090 to city council for approval on Monday. The cost is not covered by public funds.
“I don’t want to wait. The real pressing issue since we closed these buildings is the possibility of vandals and homeless people breaking into the building, starting fires and risking their own lives or the lives of first responders,” he said. said Passero.
What the future holds for the site is unclear, but the city has changed the zoning designation from high-density residential to commercial and industrial, which Passero says is better suited to the industrial area where it sits.
Day Staff Writer Taylor Hartz contributed to this report.