We just returned from the scene of the Grand Street fire. Officials from the Fire Department and the Dept. of Housing Preservation & Development briefed City Councilmember Margaret Chin a short time ago. They have determined that two out of three of the buildings damaged last night will probably be demolished, due to safety concerns. They have been trying to reach the owner of the buildings, but as of an hour ago, had not been successful. A final decision about demolition will be made at 5pm.
283 and 285 Grand Street, similar looking 6-story tenement buildings, are both owned by the Fair Only Real Estate Company in Flushing, Queens. According to city records, the company is headed by Solomon Scheinfeld. These are the two buildings that apparently will be coming down. It is likely to be a painstaking job — given the instability of the structures. 289 Grand, a larger building on the corner of Eldridge Street, was not as badly damaged and will not be demolished.
Chis Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), was also at the scene this afternoon. His organization has been working with displaced tenants to make sure they have a place to stay temporarily. As we reported this morning, the American Red Cross has been making arrangements for the residents. But Kui said AAFE will also be working hard to make sure the tenants can return to their homes when new buildings are ready for occupancy — without having to pay jacked up rents.
Kui said 283 and 285 Grand have been on the market for one or two years. AAFE inspected the buildings last year, following up on complaints about sub-standard living conditions. A check of HPD’s web site confirms there have been numerous complaints in the past. Kui said AAFE will be focusing on any fire code violations that might have been ignored. They’ll also be offering assistance to small businesses in the area that might have been impacted by the fire. They’re estimating up to 30 shops were either damaged or are unable to open for business, due to the fire.
One resident of 283 Grand, Julie Chen, said the building was evacuated a couple of years ago after a smaller fire broke out. She told reporters this afternoon nothing was done back then to address fire code violations. Chen was highly critical of the landlord, saying they are unresponsive and have refused to make repairs.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.