Hundreds of tenants attempt to pick up the pieces weeks after massive Queens apartment building fire

CeFaan Kim Image
Thursday, January 4, 2024
Tenants left to pick up pieces weeks after Queens building fire
CeFaan Kim spoke to some residents forced to clean out their belongings.

SUNNYSIDE, Queens (WABC) -- It may be a new year, but the effects of last month's massive fire at a Queens apartment building continues to linger for residents who are now dealing with the aftermath.

Nancy Hurtado lived in her Sunnyside apartment for 37 years and is now one of about 450 tenants who lost their homes to the raging inferno that occurred just before Christmas.

"It's devastating because my children grew up there as well. I grew up there. My brother. And it's just like all the memories," said Jen Rosero-Arias, who is among those displaced by the fire. "My grandma just passed away in September so her late memories being there as well."

Weeks after the blaze, tenants are now being allowed back home to clear out all of their belongings, but only within a three-hour window.

"Everything, whether it's in good condition or not, everything has to be gone. And so, they're giving me three hours to do this. To go through my entire life, my mother's life," said Alberto Duquemendez.

In a statement a spokesperson for A+E Real Estate management said, "Given the serious damage to the building, access remains difficult, so we are providing residents with a moving crew to assist them. If residents need additional windows to move belongings, we'll provide them... We know how overwhelming this experience has been. We've worked through the holidays to provide free hotel accommodations to every family in need and to make sure every resident has been offered a temporary apartment to live in while repairs are underway in Sunnyside."

Tenants though say while they are receiving six months of temporary housing with no rent increase, they've received notices rents will significantly increase after July.

About 60% of the tenants are rent controlled, including Hurtado's family and Duquemendez.

"I worked as a project manager for many years and so right off the bat, if this building is done in six months I will be beyond shocked," said Duquemendez. "It will be one of the greatest feats of modern technology in building."

In regard to the fire, FDNY's Fire Marshals determined that a renovation contractor using an unauthorized blowtorch to remove lead paint started the blaze.

Residents will be given those three hours to move all of their belongings out starting Thursday.

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