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.
The tenant advocacy organization, Asian Americans for Equality, has been working to make sure the residents (most of whom have rent stabilized leases) are able to return to 289 Grand. If the building is demolished, those rent controlled apartments will be permanently lost. Bailey said he has not heard from AAFE about these concerns, but is open to having conversations.
Yesterday Department of Buildings Spokesperson Ryan Fitzgibbon told The Lo-Down inspectors believe the building is structurally stable. But Bailey said, working with city officials, he has been told the opposite: that 289 Grand is unsafe. As for the leases, Bailey argued that the owner had no choice but to send the termination notices. He indicated it’s a step required by state law.
The termination notice said, “the building has been vacated and rendered unsafe for habitation and is currently the subject of a vacate order… the landlord, having no other option but to tear down the hazardous remaining remnants of the building, elects to end your lease… pursuant to the Fire and Casualty provision of your lease.”
Bailey said he’s been working “around the clock” to resolve the situation. He noted that the owners lived in the building and lost their homes. “I’m not in battle mode,” he said.