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.
A Department of Buildings spokesperson tells DNA Info 289 Grand is “structurally stable and not in need of demolition (and we were told the same thing by DOB).” But according to the web site, Dinine Signorelle-Wong, the owner’s step-daughter, asserted, “Whatever happens to the building is actually not up to any one person right now… what happens to the building is not up to me.” The notice stated, “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 the lease).”
Kui told me earlier today he believes the landlord is simply trying to intimidate tenants. He compared the situation to the aftermath of another fire in Chinatown, on James Street. We were there in front of that building two months ago, as State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Kui and other officials welcomed residents back to their apartments. In the James Street blaze, three people were killed and the building was severely damaged. After some initial reluctance, Kui told us, the owner agreed to make repairs and preserve the units.
Kui said the owner of 289 Grand has been offered a low interest loan from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to make repairs on the badly damaged building. Most of the apartments are rent stabilized.
Typically, owners must file with the Department of Buildings and the state before tearing down a rent controlled property. DOB Spokesperson Ryan Fitzgibbon told us a short time ago nothing has been filed as of yet. Since 289 Grand is a building protected by rent control, she added, the owner would be required to file additional paperwork proving residents’ rights were not being violated. HPD would be consulted in this type of case, she said, before anything is approved.
In the DNA Info interview Signorelle-Wong, who was a resident of the building, said she’d been advocating for the tenants. We have a call into the attorney listed on the termination notice, Carolyn Rualo of Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. We’ll let you know if she responds.
UPDATE 5/11/2010: Click here for the response from Adam Leitman Bailey, attorney representing the landlord.