One year later, Housing Court battle drags on at Chinatown fire site

April 22, 2011 09:33AM

One year after a massive fire ripped through three Chinatown apartment buildings, the tenants displaced from the only one left standing still haven’t been able to return to their homes, and repairs on the structure have not even begun. The building, at 289 Grand Street, is now the centerpiece of a court battle between its owner, Kwok Koon Wong, and the individuals — mostly Chinese immigrants — who had lived in its 13 apartments prior to the blaze. Wong’s attorney, Adam Leitman Bailey, has argued that repairs to the building would cost more than the property is worth, while John Gorman, who is representing nine of the tenants, has accused the landlord of inflating the costs of renovations in an attempt to squeeze out rent-regulated tenants and clear the way for construction of a luxury building on the site. Gorman said his clients had been paying between $900 and $1,000 per month to live in the building at the time of the fire. “They have no intention to move back in. They want us to pay them to buy their leases,” Bailey said this week, after a Housing Court judge denied his request for a trial by jury in the case. Bailey went on to claim that most of the tenants have found permanent housing in the aftermath of the fire, which Gorman denied. [NYT]

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