Watch CBS News

Queens residents who were displaced by fire now seeking new homes as temporary housing expires

Temporary housing expires for Queens residents displaced by fire
Temporary housing expires for Queens residents displaced by fire 02:20

NEW YORK - Six months ago, fire ripped through a Sunnyside, Queens apartment building, displacing hundreds of residents.

Some of the tenants took the landlord's offer for temporary housing and agreed to terms that said the housing would end July 2. Now that the agreement has run its course, they say they aren't being offered an extension and won't be able to acquire new leases.

Resident who uses wheelchair says landlord told her she has to move

Alison Kappel, who uses a wheelchair for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, is one of the Sunnyside tenants who saw their 47th Avenue apartment building go up in flames over the holidays last year. Now, she says she is being asked to leave her apartment.

"Six months after the fire, I'm going to be homeless again," she said.

The landlord A&E Real Estate, whose hired contractor used the blowtorch that set the blaze, made a temporary housing offer. Tenants could continue to pay rent for six months' stay in apartments across the city. Some didn't take the deal, but Kappel felt she had no choice.

"In my condition, I need to have a stable place to live where I can keep my medical equipment," she said.

However, the apartment she got was not wheelchair accessible. She says she slept in a nursing home for four months while waiting for the landlord to install grab bars in her bathroom. 

Her lease is set to expire July 2. Now relying on rent stabilization, she says she was ready to pay market rate in order to stay. The landlord told her by email that she would have to move elsewhere.

"I asked why, and I did not get a response," she said.

Tenants suing A&E Real Estate over handling of apartment building fire

A&E also declined to address CBS New York's questions about prohibiting tenants from remaining in their current units. 

"A&E cannot give any other excuse other than pure and utter retaliation as to why they are not leasing these apartments to these tenants," tenant attorney Brett Gallaway said.

Tenants announced a lawsuit at a rally this week accusing A&E of gross misconduct and more.

With the building remaining uninhabitable, tenants believe A&E is deliberately slow-rolling repairs to influence rent-stabilized tenants to move, paving the way for a rent hike.

A spokesperson for A&E told CBS New York:

"We have made steady progress stabilizing the building, but the damage was severe and there are no quick fixes here. We have been transparent with residents about those challenges, and that the emergency hotel stays and discounted apartments we provided after the fire were a temporary solution to give everyone breathing room as they made longer-term plans. By law, residents who follow State procedures will retain their rights in rent stabilized apartments, no matter what other arrangements they make. Ultimately, the insurance process will determine how to compensate all parties from the losses in the fire."

Sources tell CBS New York that A&E has not submitted a required schedule for repairs and that the Department of Buildings is poised to issue a violation for Failure to Comply with Commissioner's Order.

You can email Elle with Queens story ideas by CLICKING HERE

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.