From Grand Street, the destruction caused by Sunday night’s fire looks bad enough. But this morning, we have new photos taken from inside 289 Grand (the building on the corner of Grand and Eldridge Streets) illustrating the full extent of the devastation to two neighboring buildings.
The photos were taken by Chris Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality. Yesterday afternoon, he was taken inside the heavily damaged (but salvageable) building by an official with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The city made the call earlier this week to demolish 283 and 285 Grand. The photos after the jump help explain why they made that decision so quickly.
The roofs are basically gone from both 283 and 285 Grand. There are large gaps in the floors, all the way down to the cellar. All of the internal walls are heavily damaged. The exterior wall of 285 Grand is leaning on 289 Grand. Kui told me it appeared 289 Grand suffered heavy water damage. The upper floors were badly charred by the flames.
Fire inspectors have not been able to determine what caused the blaze, in part, because it’s not safe to go into the buildings. They most likely will not be able to search the ground floor for clues until the top four floors (of the six story buildings) are removed. That could take a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, city agencies, elected officials and neighborhood organizations (including AAFE) are working to find temporary housing for the residents displaced by the fire. As we reported yesterday, they’re inviting tenants to an informational meeting this evening to address short-term housing arrangements. The American Red Cross is providing emergency housing this week for 120 adults and 19 children at a Midtown hotel. Finding enough apartments for the displaced tenants (anywhere in New York) is proving to be a major challenge.
There’s also concern about the businesses on Grand Street, many of whom have been shuttered since Monday. The blocks between Allen and Chrystie remain closed to automobile traffic. Through its Renaissance Economic Development Corp., AAFE has provided support to five small businesses so far, including a grocery store, a barber shop, restaurants and a health spa. Emergency loans (in the amount of $30,000) are available to qualifying businesses.
Long term, it’s not completely clear where the residents will go. Most of the apartments destroyed were rent stabilized/rent controlled. Under normal circumstances, rental units cease to be covered under rent ceilings when a building must be demolished. But this is obviously an unusual situation. If it’s determined the fire was arson (there’s currently no indication of that), it might help affordable housing advocates make the case that the tenants should be accommodated in a rebuilt apartment complex on Grand Street.
The owner of the buildings, Solomon Scheinfeld, has not surfaced. But lawyers representing his firm, Fair Only Real Estate Corp., have made contact with city officials.