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BP secures new temporary housing agreements for Sunnyside families displaced by 5-alarm fire in December

Tenants who were forced from their homes after a 5-alarm inferno destroyed their Sunnyside apartment building just before Christmas feared they would be evicted from temporary housing starting on July 2. Photo courtesy of Julie Won’s office

July 2, 2024 By Bill Parry

A breakthrough was reached just days after tenants of a Sunnyside apartment complex filed a lawsuit against their building’s landlord stemming from their displacement following a 5-alarm fire in December.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and A&E Real Estate, the landlord, announced a plan Monday to provide 22 tenants of 43-09 47th Ave. who were forced out of their apartments on Dec. 20 due to fire damage with an additional round of six-month temporary housing agreements.

File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

After the fire, which was determined to have been caused by a contractor using an unregulated blowtorch, A&E offered the tenants the option of signing a temporary relocation license agreement for “up to six months if needed,” allowing them to rent apartments at other A&E properties at the same monthly rate they had paid at their Sunnyside building. Those original agreements were set to expire on Tuesday, July 2.

“Through no fault of their own, our neighbors tragically lost their homes and their possessions in the heart of the holiday season,” Richards said. “I’m thankful to A&E Real Estate for its partnership and for its support of these families by offering additional temporary lease agreements. Going forward my office will work tirelessly with our partners in city government to ensure those displaced by the fire have continuous access to stable and affordable housing.”

File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

A spokesperson for A&E Real Estate said the agreement was with 22 households that are still in A&E temporary housing as of Monday.

“Borough President Richards picked up the phone and asked how we could work together to do more for residents. Working through the weekend, we found a path forward that will enable us to offer temporary housing for residents affected by the fire for up to six months more,” the spokesperson said. “While we know this has been challenging, we have worked hard at every step to go above and beyond to give residents some security and breathing room to plan for the future.”

The additional temporary lease agreements will run through Jan. 15, 2025, giving impacted families another six months to secure more permanent housing.

“Ultimately, it’s the insurance settlement that will compensate all parties for their losses in the fire,” the A&E spokesperson said. “We appreciate Borough President Richards’ partnership in finding an approach that we can sustain for several months more.”

The lawsuit filed on behalf of 200 tenants seeks $10 million in damages for gross negligence in failing to properly supervise their contractors and/or employees. Brett Gallaway, the tenants’ attorney from the law firm of McLaughlin and Stern, emphasized the severity of the situation.

“The reckless actions of A&E have caused irreparable harm to these families,” Gallaway said. “This lawsuit seeks to hold them accountable for the devastation they have caused and their continued failure to provide adequate support and compensation to the displaced tenants.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Council Member Julie Won rallied with some of their displaced constituents in front of the still uninhabitable building one day before the lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

State Senator Michael Gianaris rallied with some of the displaced tenants in front of their still uninhabitable building on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Michael Gianaris’ office

“I am heartbroken for the residents’ still impacted following last winter’s fire in Sunnyside,” Gianaris said. “I will continue to work with these families to do everything I can to support them, and that includes calling on A&E to do the right thing and find them housing while their homes are rebuilt.”

Soon after Richards and A&E announced the agreement, Won posted on X that A&E “has followed up with each resident on next steps for another temporary relocation agreement.”

Council Member Julie Won rallied with the displaced tenants on several occasions. Photo courtesy of Julie Won’s office

She thanked Richards for his dedicated partnership to help negotiate the agreement.

Gianaris also welcomed the announcement that the 22 households would have more time to find permanent housing.

“I am grateful the united front of elected officials, Sunnyside tenants and advocates stood together and achieved progress, but extending temporary leases for some of the tenants is just a first step,” Gianaris said. “We will continue to work together to get all the Sunnyside tenants back into their homes.”

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