Residents of a New York City Chinatown apartment building that was destroyed by a fire in April are frustrated with the building’s delayed repairs.
The fire that started in the building owned by Eighty Mulberry Realty Corp. on Mulberry Street left two people dead and 37 tenants displaced.
While the tenants were able to retrieve their belongings, they are unable to resume living in their apartments until the units are repaired and deemed habitable again.
“We’ve all been displaced since then, with just a total question mark of when we’re going to return to the building and when repairs will be made,” said resident Anela Chan.
Eighty Mulberry Realty Managing Agent Lance Steinberg said that they want tenants to move back in as soon as possible, noting that they have recently secured working permits from the city’s Department of Buildings. The company, however, has yet to issue the work permits to contractors to do the repairs.
According to Steinberg, units on lower floors are expected to be completed within 60 days while the rest of the building, consisting of the upper floors that were damaged the most by the fire, may be done by February 2023.
Councilmember Christopher Marte, who represents lower Manhattan, disagrees with the timeline, which coincides with what a housing court judge has enforced.
Marte demanded that the buildings department and the landlord “expedite the process and make sure that this building is safe for tenants to return back to their home.”
Chan, who lives on the fifth floor – which is where the fire originated – said she spent hundreds of hours looking for a temporary place to stay. She found a sublet via Airbnb and had to spend about $5,000 for rent, utilities and new supplies.
“Our insurance company actually declared that four months was too long, it was an unreasonable amount of time to repair a building, so we’re currently having to pay all of the additional expenses ourselves,” Chan said.
The city has committed to expediting any needed reviews or inspections while monitoring the progress on restoring the building.
Nonprofit Think Chinatown has organized a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to benefit the tenants, which so far has raised over $61,000.