Volume 74, Number 13 | July 28 - August 03 , 2004

Fire at E. 13th St. squatter building

A fire on Sat., July 17, damaged 544 E. 13th St., one of the 11 former city-owned squatter buildings sold to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board two years ago for $1 each. UHAB project director Marina Metalios said a drying machine in a homesteader’s apartment burst into flames, causing the fire. Metalios said a repairperson had visited a few times before to fix the dryer.

The building suffered fire damage on the fifth and sixth floors and roof, and water damage on those floors and below. “The roof needs work, it was frail to begin with,” said Metalios. “No one’s moved. The Red Cross offered assistance, but I think people are concerned about their belongings. People are working on the cleanup and will work together on repairs.” Insurance may actually lower the cost of renovating the building and bringing it up to code, she said. When renovations of the former squats are complete, they will become limited-equity co-ops owned by the homesteaders. In this building, for which an elevator is planned and which has larger apartments than most, maintenance fees once renovations are done will be $800-$900 a month, Metalios said.

As previously reported, homesteaders in five buildings filed eviction proceedings in Housing Court against eight individuals. Four cases are continuing. Three people chose to leave. Metalios said another man who didn’t pay his house dues for nine years as a squatter has agreed to a court-approved payment program, participate in “sweat equity” repair work, take classes at UHAB and attend building meetings.

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