Monday, April 12, 2010

UPDATED: Fire at 285 Grand Street Leaves Behind Massive Destruction And Loss

Over 60 units and 250 firefighters respond to the scene last night / Photo credit: New Jersey Metro Fire Photographer Bill Tompkins (via).

A fire at 285 Grand St less than 24 hours ago captivated and shocked a neighborhood with its menacing size, one of the worst blazes in Chinatown in years. The fire, visible from Brooklyn Heights, hung a massive plume of thick black smoke over Lower Manhattan and has left an 87 year old resident of the building unaccounted for.

Update:  Firefighters found the body of elderly man laying on a bed in the sixth floor.

Trapped inside the building while the fire raged and unable to see anything, Sing Ho called his relatives on the phone. "Nobody's coming to get me," he told his goddaughter.  Firefighters were pulling residents out of the building until approximately 11.30pm; shortly after they were ordered to evacuated. They are still unable to get into the building due to the structurally compromised condition.

See dramatic up close photos from the scene taken by New Jersey Metro Fire Photographer Bill Tompkins.

Fire officials said twenty-nine firefighters, three civilians, and one EMT worker were injured. One of the civilians was in serious condition.

Rescue crews first responded to the area after a 911 call at 10.14 p.m. EDT yesterday evening, with the first crew arrived at the scene at 10.16 p.m. Reports of the fire grew steadily and quickly worse, with only 13 minutes elapsing between the first battalion searching for the source of heavy smoke to a call for "All-Hands." The blaze reached 7th alarm quickly, the first to do so since Deutsche Bank building fire in August 2007.

A resident of 285 Grand St sits in front of his building on fire early this morning / Photo credit David Perez Shadi (via)

The Lo Down has been at the scene most of the day today, and is documenting the unease among tenants and advocates with regard to the loss of a significant amount of rent stabilized and rent controlled housing. Of the 30 apartments, five were rent-controlled, 23 were rent-stabilized and two were rented at market rate. The New York Times reports the buildings have been put up for sale three times in the last five years with no success, with the latest attempt being made at $9.25 million, more than $4 million less than the previous asking price.

According to The Lo Down, "tenant advocates are more than a little suspicious about the circumstances leading up to last night’s fire," where residents complained that the super long ago stopped making repairs. The buildings at 283 and 285 Grand Street, two of the three damaged, will be demolished. Both owned by the Fair Only Real Estate Company in Flushing, Queens. According to city records, the company is headed by Solomon Scheinfeld."

Previously: UPDATED: Massive 7 Alarm Fire At 285 Grand St

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