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Fire at 321 Grand Street; Historic Building Damaged

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315-321 Grand Street.

A short time ago, a New York Fire Department spokesman told us no investigation is planned at 321 Grand Street, where a fire broke out overnight. According to the FDNY, the blaze started on the third floor of the cast-iron building, the former home of Ridley & Sons Department Store.  The Landmarks Preservation Commission has been weighing whether to protect the “pink building,” which dates back to 1886.  Investigators said last night’s fire is not considered suspicious.

The fire was first called in at 3:12 a.m. and was extinguished at 4:11 a.m. Although residents were inside at the time, no one was injured, the FDNY spokesman told us.  A fairly good sized crowd gathered at the corner of Grand and Orchard streets to watch as firefighters went to work. Orchard Street clothing designer Robert James, and his wife Michelle, were some of the first people to notice the fire.

They posted several photos on tumblr, along with the following on the scene report:

…We were standing outside and all of a sudden we hear these people who are walking by say “I think there’s a fire up in that building.” … Robert IMMEDIATELY called 911 and told them to bring trucks with ladders! The fire department arrived within minutes, however, what started as tiny little flames was a full on blaze on the first floor… We felt so helpless just seeing the flames move up towards the roof. At one point there were flames going for awhile on the third floor… It was crazy…you could see the firefighters on each floor doing their job. The guys on the third floor were ripping the roof down and then spraying water to the floor above them…

Photo credit: Robert James.

This afternoon, police tape was still blocking the sidewalk in front of the building and small pieces of glass were scattered on the walkway and on Orchard Street.  The Jodamo clothing store was closed, but it is never open on Saturdays due to the Jewish Sabbath. Several other shops withiin 315-317/321 Grand were open for business.

This past April, the New York Times reported about the building’s “uncertain fate.” While the Landmarks Commission has moved to protect the “wonderfully bizarre” monument to the Lower East Side’s rich history, the building’s owners have wanted to sell it as a “development property.”  Massey Knakal had priced the “pink building” at $25 million, but the listing is no longer available online. In the Times, co-owner Alfred I Goldman said he was not thrilled about the idea of landmarking, calling the property “just an ugly building.”

City tax bills are sent to Edward Kaminsky of Fieber Management in Brooklyn Heights. According to property records, the Kaminsky family owns the building. The big question now: how bad is the damage at 321 Grand? The windows on multiple floors were knocked out last night and some smoke damage is apparent. We have a call into Mr. Kaminsky for more details.

A couple more photos sent in today by Lo-Down readers:

Photo by Conway Liao.
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  1. It is almost always the case that a building that has historical and architectural meaning to the community is characterized by a developer as “just an ugly building.” This is how developers operate. I call upon the owner to act immediately to protect the building by sealing the windows and roof and on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate this building pronto.

  2. sounds funny to me…there seem to be a lot of fires in buildings about to be land marked….sounds like a case for Law and Order…I am curious why the fired dept has so quickly dismissed arson or other causes….what was the cuase?

  3. This is the building that my great-great grandfather, and my great-grandfather housed their business (Edward Ridley & Sons). I’ve been rooting for historic designation — I hope this doesn’t end it’s chances.  Anyone have pictures of the interior (I’m in California)


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