The Real Deal New York

Brooklyn landlord pays $18M for burned Baruch Singer building, plans rehab

48-unit Morningside Heights property suffered three fires in a decade
By Hayley Kaplan | May 13, 2013 06:00PM

A fire-scarred building in Morningside Heights will get a new life as rental apartments, after a Brooklyn real estate investment firm paid $18 million for the property from landlord Baruch Singer. 

Renaissance Realty Group bought the seven-story, 48-unit building at 92 Morningside Avenue between West 122nd and West 123rd streets through an LLC, city records filed today show.

The Coney Island, Brooklyn-based residential and commercial landlord plans to rehabilitate the building in the next three months, with work completed in about nine months, said Adir Cohen, who runs Renaissance’s leasing and acquisitions.

The building will be “strictly rentals,” he said.

The property has sat vacant since a 2002 fire — ignited by a cigarette — that burned its interior and left residents displaced, previous news reports show. Another two fires occurred at the building in March 2012, DNAinfo reported. The fires spared the property’s sister building at 98 Morningside Avenue.

Locals started an online petition last year targeted at the city Landmarks Preservation Commission with hopes that the property would be restored.

“It is a tragedy that the buildings continue to languish in derelict condition considering the resurgence of the neighborhood,” the petition read.

The properties were built in 1901 and last altered in 1986, PropertyShark shows.

As The Real Deal reported last month, a residential development site in Long Island City that was formerly controlled by Singer, the president of Grossinger House Holding, and investor David Weiss is set to hit the foreclosure auction block this week with a $38.54 million outstanding lien. Singer had also planned to build a hotel on Grand Street, but plans for that were scrapped because of the economy, as previously reported.

Singer has long made headlines over the years because of the quality of his buildings. In 2006, the New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development sued him in connection with his building at 655 West 160th Street, which at the time had 437 violations, the New York Observer reported in May 2007.

Singer did not immediately respond to requests for comment and Cohen declined to say why Singer wanted to sell the building.