New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

BUILDING OPERATIONS

HOW NYC CO-OP AND CONDOS OPERATE

Tower Inferno Still Giving Off Sparks

Hell's Kitchen

Fiery Lawsuit

The Strand after the fatal fire in January 2014 (photo by Karsten Moran, The New York Times)

Jan. 4, 2017

Almost three years to the day after a fatal fire erupted in the apartment downstairs from his in the 43-story Strand luxury condo tower in Hell’s Kitchen, former resident Edward Singh-Walia has filed a lawsuit against the condo in Manhattan Supreme Court, the New York Post reports.

Singh-Walia, who was injured in the fire, alleges that that the fire spread due to “dangerous, defective and unsafe conditions,” and that there was a “failure and/or lack of” safety devices.

The Strand, built in 1989, is classified as “fireproof,” which means apartments are designed to resist fire for up to three hours, condo board president Bill Ragals recently told Habitat. Emergency procedures advise residents to remain inside their apartments with the door closed in the event of a fire.

Among those who failed to heed the advice was 27-year-old playwright Daniel McClung and his husband Michael Cohen, who picked up their two dogs and fled their 38th-floor apartment when they became aware of the fire. McClung and both dogs died from smoke inhalation while trying to descend one of the building’s two stairwells. In 2015, McClung’s family received a $2 million settlement from the Strand’s insurance carrier. The fire was ruled electrical in origin.

In discussing the Strand’s recovery from the tragedy, Ragals cited the hard work of the building’s board, management company, resident manager, contractor and engineer. “Thanks to them,” he said, “we’re back to being the premier building we were before the fire.”

It’s a timely reminder for every co-op and condo board: even after a dramatic recovery, some tragedies can continue to send off sparks for years.

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