Pomonok fire kills mother of 2

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A Kew Gardens Hills mother of two who had filed a $20 million sexual harassment suit against a construction company where she worked died Sunday after a fire ripped through her apartment, police and neighbors said.

Bianca Kuros, 44, died in the blaze at her fifth-floor apartment in the Pomonok Houses near the intersection of 71st Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, according to police. The fire, which began a little after 3 a.m. Sunday, also sent Kuros’ 16-year-old daughter, Olivia, to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx and two Polish immigrants, Adam Balik, 52, and Jinosv Guczkowsyki, 50, to Flushing Hospital in critical condition, police and neighbors said.

“Bianca, I can’t believe it,” said her neighbor and friend Eileen Ramos. “She didn’t deserve that. She had two daughters, and she took care of her deaf-mute parents in Brooklyn.”

Kuros, a Polish immigrant who had lived in the Pomonok Houses for about a decade, was slated to appear in federal court in Manhattan Monday for a hearing on the $20 million lawsuit she filed this summer against JPMorgan Chase and her employer, Total Safety Consulting, according to court documents.

Kuros, who used her maiden name of Wisniewski to file the lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleged that she was subjected to harassment while working as a construction safety coordinator at JPMorgan’s construction site on Park Avenue in 2007.

When Kuros complained men had made lewd comments to her and groped her, she was replaced by a man, she alleged in the suit.

Kuros’ lawyer, Manhattan-based Steven Wittels said the lawsuit would continue despite her death.

“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Wittels said. “She was really a good worker and thought of very highly. She worked very hard to get into her position.”

More than 100 firefighters battled the fire, which originated in Kuros’ living room, fire officials said. Chief Fire Marshal Robert Byrnes said to reporters Monday that the fire was an accident. He added damaged electrical wires had been found where the fire originated.

Ramos, who lived one floor beneath Kuros, said she woke up at 3 a.m. and “saw all the lights from the fire trucks.

“I said, ‘Oh, my God,’” Ramos said. “I heard all the smashing of the windows. I went into the hallway and saw the firemen with the hoses, and they told me to get back into my apartment.”

Kuros lived in the apartment with her two daughters, Olivia and Nicole, 18, who was not home at the time of the fire.

“It was a really, really nice relationship she had with her daughters,” Ramos said.

Kuros was a widow whose husband had died five years ago, Ramos said. Along with her two children, she helped to take care of her deaf parents in Brooklyn and knew sign language.

Ramos did not say whether or not she thought the fire was suspicious, but did say Kuros had been receiving threatening phone calls about the lawsuit.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

Updated 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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