A pair of homeless man have been arrested for starting the fire that caused the NYC's biggest blaze (this side of the World Trade Center). Leszek Kuczera, a 59 year old Polish immigrant, and another as-yet unapprehended homeless man were attempting to burn the insulation off copper wire by setting eight tires on fire, but the fire got out of control. Kuczera was arrested and charged with arson, buglary, reckless endangerment and petty larceny; he told fire marshals he did not mean for the fire to burn down the warehouse.
Fire marshals say that burning insulation off copper is common, especially with copper prices rising (plain copper is $125 a pound, whereas insulated copper is $0.75). The NY Times and the Daily News profile Kuczera, who came to the city about 15 years ago and lost work and a home because of his alcoholism.
The lawyer for developer Joshua Guttman, who owns the property as well as others that had mysterious fires, said, "The property owners are relieved that they have been vindicated." However, Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes has charged Guttman, his son Jack, and others involved with Guttman's company with "434 counts of Failure to Maintain Privately Owned Waterfront Property, one count for each day the Gutmans failed to repair dilapidated piers and crumbling concrete bulkheads after being ordered to by the city Department of Small Business Services Dockmasters."
The Terminal Market consists of six building lots, four of which abut the East River and stretch from Milton Street south, to the center of the block between Oak and Calyer Streets. The corporations which own those four, 91 West, L.L.C.; 73 West, L.L.C.; 57 West L.L.C.; and 24 Oak L.L.C. are all charged with the violations, Unclassified Misdemeanors each punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. Joshua Guttman is the managing member of all four corporations, and Jack Guttman is vice president of 24 Oak L.L.C.
Dockmasters first cited the property owners for the damaged and unsafe piers and bulkheads on Jan. 21, 2005. When the agency’s inspectors returned to the property March 30, of this year, they noticed that the problems had not been corrected.
That's almost $3 million in fines, but that's probably a drop in the bucket, since Guttman paid $42 million as a down payment on the land. Guttman is looking to concentrate on the development now.
Gothamist on the Greenpoint Warehouse Fire.
Photograph by Dima Gavrysh/AP