Grand St. fire leaves one man dead and 200 homeless


By Albert Amateau

A fire that broke out in a Chinatown building, which had two-dozen housing violations late Sunday night, spread to two other buildings, and left 200 people homeless, injured 33 people, including 29 firefighters, and left dead one 87-year-old man, whose body was discovered on Monday night.

The man who perished, Sing Ho, was found in his bed in a sixth-floor apartment hours after the fire was under control and the building at 285 Grand St. was deemed safe enough to enter again. Firefighters did not know the victim was in the apartment until his two daughters went to Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office around 3 p.m. on Monday asking for their father’s whereabouts.

Two other elderly men were hospitalized. Most of the injured firefighters suffered smoke inhalation.

The fire, which apparently began in the basement of the six-story tenement of 283 Grand, spread to 285 and 289 Grand St. The buildings at 285 and 283 Grand St., built more than 100 years ago, were damaged beyond repair and have been ordered demolished.

The fire, which at its height was visible across the East River in Brooklyn, started in the back of a store at 283 Grand St. and by midnight had reached seven alarms, the first at that level since the Deutsche Bank fire near the World Trade Center site in August 2007, a Fire Department spokesperson said.

A two-block stretch of Grand St. from Allen to Forsyth Sts. will be closed for more than a week because of the fire, city officials said.

The housing violations in the buildings, owned by Fair Only Realty, had nothing to do with the fire. But residents had complained all winter about no heat and about trash piling up in the basement.

Chris Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, said his organization was looking for shelter for residents who were burned out of their homes. A joint statement by Chin, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, state Senator Daniel Squadron and Borough President Scott Stringer said they were working with city agencies, AAFE, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Project Home of University Settlement, Chinese-American Planning Council and Chinatown Partnership to find housing for residents displaced by the fire. The Red Cross provided temporary shelter.

“In the wake of this tragedy we are once again reminded of the immense courage and generosity of our Lower Manhattan community,” the statement said.