Three Years After Fire at 289 Grand Street, Local Leaders Celebrate Return of Tenants

More than three years after one of the most devastating fires in Chinatown history, tenants of 289 Grand St. celebrate a return to their homes.

AAFE executives gathered with Speaker Silver, HPD leadership and tenants to celebrate rehabilitation of 289 Grand St.

AAFE executives gathered with Speaker Silver, HPD leadership and tenants to celebrate rehabilitation of 289 Grand St.

Back in May, the residents – who were displaced from their homes since April of 2010 – moved back into eight freshly renovated apartments.  Yesterday, officials with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and elected representatives joined them to acknowledge a hard fought victory in NYC Housing Court and the restoration of a building that its owners sought to demolish.

The fire swept through four buildings in April 2010, killing an elderly man and forcing more than 200 residents from their homes.  Wong’s Grand Street Realty, the building owner, argued that the damage was too severe to make repairs and that demolition was the only viable option. After a long legal battle, a judge ruled in the spring of 2012 that the building must be rehabilitated. Under state law, demolition would have meant the elimination of the rent regulated units at 289 Grand St.

289 Grand St.

289 Grand St.

Yesterday’s news conference was held at AAFE’s offices on Division Street. The community organization helped the fire victims form a tenant association and facilitated the legal proceedings.  Chris Kui, AAFE’s executive director said, victory was only possible for the tenants because, “the community came together. The elected officials came together. So many people were calling for justice and the return of the tenants.”

State Assembly Speaker, who was joined by City Council member Margaret Chin, called the return of the residents to 289 Grand “a great victory for those of us who have fought for the preservation of affordable housing in Chinatown and throughout our city.” Mathew Wambua, commissioner of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, praised the local community for its tenacity and for standing up to fight for the rights of the building’s residents. HPD joined the lawsuit against the building owner.

Two neighboring buildings were demolished following the fire.  Commercial buildings were erected in their place.