A New York City legal aid group filed a lawsuit on behalf of multiple Bronx residents affected by a 2-alarm fire in Fordham Manor last fall, according to a statement from the firm.
The Legal Aid Society said via email that it would be representing 12 rent-stabilized tenants in a Jan. 27 Bronx Civil Court lawsuit against their landlords — individuals Shkurt Dedvukaj and Paul Dedvukaj, as well as Creston Real Estate Advisors Inc., 2490 Properties LLC, and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) — for “failing to make repairs and neglecting hazardous conditions, including electrical system problems and failing to maintain the emergency exit door in a code-compliant manner.” The complaint also states the respondents “harassed” petitioners by “failing to lift vacate orders.”
The petitioners are seeking “an order to correct conditions” at the building that are affecting their “life, health, and safety,” the suit says, as well as “compensatory damages or $1,000 reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and punitive damages.”
Fire investigators said the blaze, which broke out at 2490 Davidson Ave. on Sept. 13, 2022, was an accident — “electrical in nature” and caused by an overloaded power strip in a second-floor apartment.
Per #FDNY Fire Marshals the cause of yesterday's 2-alarm fire at 2490 Davidson Avenue in the Bronx was accidental, electrical in nature, started at an overloaded power strip in an apartment on the 2nd floor. pic.twitter.com/gJNYtS7eGO
— FDNY (@FDNY) September 14, 2022
According to reporting by CBS New York, multiple tenants were unable to escape the six-story building since the back door was bolted from the outside. At one point, tenants told CBS more than 50 people piled up to try to kick down the door.
In the statement from the Legal Aid Society, staff attorney Jason Hadley said the group filed suit to “force” landlords to make necessary repairs to the building.
“The landlords’ failure to make repairs at 2490 Davidson Ave. has not only impacted our clients’ quality of life, but literally put their lives at risk and caused irreparable emotional harm,” he said.
New York City Councilmember Pierina Sanchez, who represents the Fordham Manor area in District 14, said in the Legal Aid Society statement that she “welcome(s)” the group’s involvement in the case.
“The landlords’ callous refusal to maintain this property remained even in the face of City enforcement programs that include escalating fines, like the City’s Alternative Enforcement Program, is unacceptable,” she said. “Landlords cannot continue to dismiss their responsibility to ensure the safety of tenants; they must be held accountable for the harm they cause to tenants and families.”
Steven Saljanin, a partner at Creston Real Estate Advisors, told the Bronx Times in an interview Wednesday that the company had taken over management of the building just before the fire broke out last September. He said he and his colleagues were scheduled for their first building walk-through the next day.
“I actually went down there and I was assisting the tenants all night,” Salijanin said about the evening of the fire, emphasizing that he was on site from around 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. the following day. He said he worked with the American Red Cross in the direct aftermath to assist the tenants “as best as possible.”
According to property records from the Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS), the deed to the building at 2490 Davidson Ave. was transferred from Davidson Properties LLC to 2490 Properties LLC in December 2008 for slightly more than $1.7 million.
A spokesperson for ACRIS confirmed, however, that property ownership documents don’t always require records for changes in building management. Creston Real Estate Advisors was not listed on the 2008 deed.
Neither the HPD or 2490 Properties LLC responded to an immediate request for comment.
Salijanin said court documents filed in court had been forwarded to the owners and attorneys of the Creston Real Estate Advisors Inc.
According to the petition, the respondents or their attorneys are summoned to appear in court on March 8.
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