Judge Orders Owner of Fire-Damaged 289 Grand Street to Make Repairs

289 Grand Street.

A big victory today for the residents of 289 Grand Street, who have been fighting for two years to return home to their apartments after a devastating fire.  A housing court judge ruled in their favor, saying the property owner is compelled to renovate the building, rather than tear it down.

Late this afternoon, the tenants, along with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), an organization advocating legally on their behalf, and local elected officials called a news conference to celebrate the decision.

The Grand Street Fire — One Year Later

It’s been one year since a devastating fire ripped through four Grand Street apartment buildings, killing an elderly man and displacing dozens of tenants. Today the New York Times has an update on the contentious legal battle surrounding one of those buildings, 289 Grand.

Asking why the building remains empty prompts finger-pointing from tenants and the landlord’s lawyer, Adam Leitman Bailey. Each side accuses the other of trying to delay a Housing Court trial on a lawsuit filed by the tenants to force repairs. Mr. Bailey moved for a jury proceeding. John Gorman (the tenants’ attorney) opposed that, and this week, Judge Timmie Erin Elsner sided with the tenants. “It would be oppressive to charge a jury with enforcement of highly technical and complex housing safety standards and force them to devise a solution when various remedies exist,” she wrote.

You can read the full article here… and see our past coverage of the 289 Grand saga here.

Landlord: $6 Million to Repair Fire Ravaged Building

We were in housing court earlier this morning, following developments in the legal fight between the owner and tenants of 289 Grand Street. An appraisal done by the consulting firm Brown Harris Stevens for the landlord determined it would cost about $6 million to repair the building. The figure includes adding an elevator to the 6-story structure.

The two sides have been at odds since April, when a devastating fire ripped through four buildings on Grand Street.  The tenants and city agencies contend the apartments can be made livable again. But the owner, Wong’s Grand Street Realty, is mounting an “economic infeasibility defense.”  The analysis, made available to the tenants’ lawyers this morning, theorizes it would cost more to repair the building than it’s worth.

The next step: experts working for the tenants will prepare their own estimate of what it would cost to rehab 289 Grand.  The advocacy organization, Asian Americans for Equality, is paying the residents’ legal expenses. AAFE Executive Director Chris Kui says it probably wouldn’t take any more than $1.5 million to make the apartments habitable. He calls the owner’s estimate “totally overblown and distorted.”

The combatants are due back in court at the end of the month.

Grand Street Fire Victims Claim Belongings; Sheldon Silver On the Scene

Photo by Xavier Veal

The photo above may not seem all that remarkable.   Modeling cards, a dvd player, a few other personal possessions are strewn on top of an unmade bed.  This image, however,  was not taken in just any apartment — but inside 289 Grand Street — one of three buildings ravaged by fire last spring and off limits to residents ever since.

Months After Fire, Bitter Legal Battle Intensifies

289 Grand Street.

In the hours after fire ravaged three buildings on Grand Street this past spring, displaced residents found themselves in the media spotlight. Three months later, the television cameras and daily newspapers are gone. But the people whose lives were upended on the night of April 12th are no closer to putting the disaster behind them. In fact, they are entangled in a legal dispute that could go on for months, or even years.

Silver Weighs in on Future of 289 Grand

Today State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is out with a statement on 289 Grand, a building heavily damaged in last month’s 7-alarm fire. Last week the landlord had notified residents their leases were being terminated, asserting there was no other choice but to demolish the building. Silver, however, is convinced 289 Grand can be repaired:

Battle for 289 Grand: the Landlord’s Perspective

Adam Leitman Bailey

Last night we heard from the attorney representing the owner of 289 Grand, one of the buildings ravaged in last month’s devastating 7-alarm fire.  As we reported yesterday, the landlord has notified tenants it intends to terminate their leases.  Many of the residents are contesting that decision in housing court.

The attorney, Adam Leitman Bailey, said the owner’s top concern right now is making sure the building is safe.  While the exterior of 289 Grand is stable, he indicated, the interior has been compromised, and some apartments clearly can’t be saved.  “No one is going to die on my watch,” he said.

More on the Threatened Demolition of 289 Grand

We have more now on the future of 289 Grand, one of four buildings ravaged in last month’s 7-alarm fire. As we reported this morning, the landlord, Wong’s Grand Street Realty, notified residents it intends to terminate their leases and demolish the building.

Chris Kui of Asian Americans for Equality told us his organization is representing tenants in at least 10 of the building’s apartments. This afternoon, they filed a lawsuit in New York City’s housing court disputing the landlord’s decision to tear the building down.

Landlord Terminates Leases at 289 Grand; Residents Fight Demolition

We have an update this morning on the aftermath of the Grand Street fire. Last week, the residents of 289 Grand (also known as 91 Eldridge) received the bad news that their leases are being terminated. The landlord, Wong’s Grand Street Realty, has filed a “Notice to tear down the building.”

The legal document delivered to tenants read, “…the landlord, having no other option but to tear down the hazardous remaining remnants of the building, elects to end your lease…”

Followup: Residents Allowed to Enter 289 Grand

Over the weekend, we posted an article about the scene on Grand Street Saturday afternoon, where some residents displaced by the devastating fire more than two weeks ago were allowed to go inside their apartments. We noted that there were  tensions between the landlord’s daughter-in-law and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), which has been representing some of the tenants.

Yesterday, we received a comment from a reader who signed up for a Lo-Down account under the name NYCmomto2. The commenter said he/she didn’t think the story was very accurate. I emailed the anonymous reader, asking if he/she wished to elaborate. This was the response:

Residents of 289 Grand Allowed to Enter Apartments

The Grand Street fire has upended the lives of 200 Grand Street residents in countless ways. The people who lived in 283 and 285 Grand were dealt the worst blow, of course. Their homes – declared to be structurally unstable – are being demolished. But the tenants of 289 Grand (aka 91 Eldridge) have not had an easy time of it either. This weekend, however, they’re finally able to go back inside their apartments – if only for a few moments.

Yesterday afternoon the residents gathered alongside the barricade blocking the path to their building. One by one, they were escorted into their apartments to retrieve small items and any important documents that could be salvaged.

Dramatic New Photos Show Devastation Caused by Grand Street Fire

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.