Nine Years Later, Fire-Displaced Tenants from Grand Street $900K Settlement
It’s been nearly a decade since a seven-alarm fire decimated a row of Grand Street tenements. Now, nine years later, the families who lost everything finally received a settlement.
Approximately one hundred residents of 283-285 Grand Street were awarded $900,000 in property damages after years of negotiations with the owner of the two properties, Fair Only Real Estate, and its insurance carrier. When added to the earlier settlement with the owners and managers of the third burned building, 289 Grand Street, affected tenants have succeeded in recovering more than $1 million for their losses.
Payouts were based on individual property losses, ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $100,000.
Asian Americans for Equality has been fighting on behalf of tenants since the fire, from finding living quarters for the displaced to taking the housing owner to court.
The seven-alarm blaze that engulfed 283-289 Grand Street ignited in April 2010 due to an overheated electrical junction box at number 283. It’s considered one of the worst city fires in the last decade; an elderly resident died and dozens were displaced and/or injured. The damage was so severe that 285 had to be razed in the aftermath.
(The Hong Kong Supermarket fire the year before on East Broadway was also devastating.)
Complaints filed in New York State Supreme Court note the origin and rapid spread of the fire was due to years of severe neglect in maintaining the buildings. Among other things, the court records allege that the landlord “knowingly and intentionally” ignored “highly dangerous conditions,” including inadequate fire-safety measures, exposed wires, and rotting walls. Dozens of housing violations and citations issued by the city mirrored the myriad issues.
This block is rich with history. The storefronts at 283-287 were once part of the bustling commercial landscape of dry-goods shops. By the 1880s they were all managed by dry-goods merchant J. Lichtenstein, who also operated out of 281 Grand next door. Until this row of low-rise wooden buildings was replaced by tenements in the 1890s, 281 Grand was the tallest building on the block, and its eastern wall was prime advertising space. Not only was the wall visible for sidewalk shoppers, it was also in plain view of trolley passengers on Grand Street and el passengers passing through the station at Allen.