Repairs Begin at Fire Damaged 289 Grand Street, Commercial Building Rises at 285 Grand

285-289 Grand Street.

It’s been a sad sight in Chinatown for more than two years — the two parcels just west of Eldridge Street, where dozens of families were displaced following a devastating fire. Now there’s news about 285-289 Grand Street, properties that remain entangled in legal proceedings.

Earlier this month, scaffolding went up around 289 Grand, and Buildings Department records indicate a major renovation is underway inside the six-story building. Residents, aided by Asians Americans for Equality, have been battling the landlord since the April 2010 blaze. Attorneys for the property owner, Wong’s Grand Street Realty, argued the building was so badly damaged that demolition was the only option. In March, a hosuing court judge disagreed, ordering the owner to make repairs and to return the tenants (many of whom lived in rent regulated apartments) to their homes.

Grand Street Fire Victims Sue Landlord

283-285 Grand Street

A lawsuit was filed this week on behalf of 75 residents left homeless by the devastating fire that ripped through their buildings, 283 and 285 Grand Street, in April of last year.

In a news conference held yesterday at the offices of Asian Americans for Equality,  attorneys working on the case pro-bono announced a civil lawsuit against the building owner, Fair Only Real Estate Corp. The complaint (made available to reporters), alleges that the landlord “directly caused and exacerbated” the fire by “knowingly and intentionally” ignoring “highly dangerous conditions” in the buildings.

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.

Displaced Residents Receive Donations

As you might recall, several local businesses got together after the devastating Grand Street fire in April to raise money for displaced residents. On Monday, the money was distributed to more than three dozen families.  The benefit was sponsored by the restaurants An Choi, Barrio Chino, Cafe El Portal, La Esquina and Lovely Day. An Choi owner Tuan Bui told us $6400 was raised.  Councilmember Margaret Chin helped connect the business owners with Asian Americans for Equality, which facilitated the distribution of the money.

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.

Assembly Passes Bill Waiving Bank Fees For Disaster Victims

News conference on Grand Street Sunday. Photo courtesy New York State Assembly.

On Sunday, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senator Daniel Squadron gathered with community activists and displaced residents at the scene of April’s Grand Street fire. In a mid-day news conference, Silver touted a bill waiving bank fees for disaster victims in need of replacement safe deposit keys.

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…”

Fire Department: Grand Street Blaze Started in Electrical Box

Photo by Leung Photography via Flickr

The Fire Department has released results from its “exhaustive three week investigation” of the Grand Street fire. According to the fire marshal, an overheated electrical junction box caused the April 11th fire that tore through four buildings and displaced more than 300 residents. Here are the details from the Fire Department’s press release:

Grand Street Businesses Struggle to Bounce Back from Fire

Lin Shu Ming, owner of Pho Grand, is happy to be back in business. Closed for almost three weeks after the devastating Chinatown fire, he lost $2000-$3000 each day and had to throw out $10,000 in spoiled food. But at least he’s open. Late last week, the city finally removed the barricades keeping people from accessing businesses on Grand, between Eldridge and Forsyth.

Businesses Hit Hard by Grand Street Fire

This afternoon, workers are finishing up the demolition of 283 and 285 Grand, as local businesses try to bounce back after being closed for nearly three weeks. Yesterday, the city reopened the sidewalk on the north side of the street — but autombiles are still being re-routed around Grand. We spoke with the owners of two  businesses today. We’ll have their story on Monday.

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: