In April a major fire tore through 1749 Grand Concourse, a cavernous 278-unit apartment building known as the Lewis Morris. More than 40 people were injured and one person died. Thanks to fire proofing most of the apartments escaped unscathed, but the building’s lobby, and corridors on several floors, were badly damaged.
Today – some four months later – tenants are still waiting for many of the repairs to be done. They're without cooking gas (they’re using hot plates instead). There’s still a strong smell of smoke. Approximately 20 windows remain boarded up (pictured below right), according to Nilsa Rivera, the president of the tenants association. At least one stairwell is still blocked off. Several corridors have yet to be cleaned and given a paint job (pictured above). Several apartment doors have yet to replaced (pictured bottom). One of the elevators is still broken. Apartments on the lower floors still have problems with damp caused by water from the firefighters hoses. The building’s fire alarm system isn’t yet up and running. Meanwhile, the building’s HPD violations are creeping up. Before the fire there were 400; as of this morning there's 527.
In truth, there has been some progress. The alarm system is currently being installed. Most of the 70 or so apartment doors that were burnt in the blaze have been replaced. Several corridors have been refurbished. Work has been done on the building’s soot-cloaked lobby. Management is working to get the gas turned back on – a painstaking task that involves installing new gas pipes in each and every apartment.
But tenants are still angry – as they were in May when we last wrote about the building – with what they see as a slow, stuttering, and amateurish clean-up operation.
Last Thursday, Earl Brown, the deputy Bronx borough president, toured the building. In a telephone interview yesterday he said: “Management appears to be acting in good faith, but there are some concerns… tenants have a right to be frustrated.” In particular, he said, the broken and boarded up windows could have been replaced sooner, and the blocked stairwells reopened. Brown said that the borough president's office had been meeting with tenants and the management company, SG2 Management LLC, to ensure management keeps to some sort of schedule.
Since February the building has been owned by city investors Stephen Siegal, Andrew Goldberg, and Jeffrey Goldberg. The purchase was part of a bigger deal that saw 51 apartment buildings and something close to $300 million change hands.