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The records indicate that a complaint from an unidentified party was filed with the department on Oct. 25, but Buildings did not respond to it until after a four-alarm fire consumed the 70-year-old building at 153-01 Northern Blvd. and injured at least two firefighters.
Paul Wein, a spokesman for Buildings, said since there was an agency backlog and the complaint did not appear to be urgent, inspectors did not investigate it.
"Had the complaint been given to us with urgency, we would have answered it right away," Wein said.
City Limits magazine first reported that a complaint had been filed against the owner of the building for throwing debris from the second story to the container on street level and for working without a permit.
Including the Oct. 25 complaint, a total of four had been filed against the owner of the building, identified by the department as Fehim Horioglu, beginning in January 1994, according to the department's records. It was unclear from the documents whether Horioglu was the owner of the building for the last six years.
Nevertheless, the records show that the three earlier complaints had been resolved.
Fire Department officials had said the fire appeared to have been ignited by sparks created when construction crews tried to cut through an I-beam. The fire, which took 12 hours to bring under control, wedged itself in a void between two floors of the building, giving it free rein to engulf the entire structure, the officials said.
Residents and store owners who live nearby had said they saw workers renovating the two-story, sprawling commercial building, which had a former bowling alley that was converted into a pool hall and then into a karaoke bar on the second floor, since November.
In a phone interview, Horioglu, who lives in Douglas Manor, confirmed that he was the owner, but said he did not speak and understand English well, referring comment to his daughter in New Jersey. His daughter could not be reached by phone.
But the documents also list the owner as Hym Choi, of 153-01 Northern Blvd., the same address of the karaoke bar. Hon Choy, the owner of Hong Kong Choy Realty, a Manhattan firm that was contracted to renovate the building in 1998, said the owner was not Choi, but rather John Jang. Jang did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Less than a week after the fire, only the foundation of the two-story commercial building was left in tact, the wrecking crews having felled the structure. The fire displaced not only the tenants of the karaoke bar but also a handful of street-level stores. The Fire Department did not have a price estimate on the structural damage.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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