Former Residents of 289 Grand Street Sue Landlord for “Gross Negligence”
Nearly two years after a devastating seven-alarm fire tore through a bustling block of Lower East Side, killing one and leaving 200 homeless, the complicated saga of 289 Grand Street continues. Displaced residents from the corner building have been engaged in legal matters since the blaze forced them from home. Most recent was a case in August 2011 which accused the landlords of negligence. Through it all the building residents are trying to stop demolition, saying it can be saved.
Now another lawsuit is underway. Last week, the twenty-two former tenants filed suit against the owners and former managers of the property – Fair Only Real Estate Corporation, Fair Only Realty, Solomon Scheinfeld, Ralph Sherman, Wong’s Grand Street Realty, Tong’s Realty, Tong’s Management, and Tong’s Management Corp. The nineteen-page complaint reveals the terrible conditions that plaintiffs allege led to the fire, and the lack of preventative action by landlords. Some excerpts:
Years of willful neglect by the 283-285 landlords created a tinderbox that enabled the fire to spread rapidly through open voids and light shafts. Among other things, the 283-285 landlords negligently maintained 283 Grand Street’s electrical wiring, leaving wiring exposed throughout the building and thus increasing the likelihood of an electrical malfunction.
The 283-285 landlords kept 283-285 Grand Street in a perpetual state of disrepair, allowing severe water leaks to rot out walls and invade electrical outlets. Throughout the buildings, the 283-285 landlords provided ample kindling for the fire, failing to remove garbage and rubbish, which routinely spilled out into shared hallways and stairwells and accumulated in the buildings’ basements and backyards.
Both 283 and 285 Grand Street are classified as old law tenements under the New York City Administrative Code. Although required by Sections 27-2005 and 28-301.1 of the New York City Administrative Code and Section 15-07 of the New York City Rules, the 283-285 landlords had not installed or maintained proper fire stopping in the walls, hallways, stairs, and other building partitions of 283 and 285 Grand Street. The 283-285 landlords also failed to patch holes in the walls and ceilings, leaving exposed wooden slats. The lack of any insulation or other fire stopping material allowed the fire to rapidly travel up the buildings’ walls, spreading to the upper floors of the adjoining 289 Grand Street.
Plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages for gross negligence. Or, the contractual language, “recovery for the 283-285 Grand Street Landlord’s intentional, willful, malicious, and negligent actions, which directly caused the Fire at 283 and 285 Grand Street, destroyed their personal property, and left them temporarily homeless.”
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For more on the case, consult the legal paperwork below: