Burned: Kings Plaza bigwigs slapped with violations for illegally storing unregistered cars in garage

Fire in Kings Plaza parking garage injures 21
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Kings Plaza is feeling the heat after last month’s garage fire.

The Department of Buildings has issued violations to the owners of Kings Plaza Shopping Center on Oct. 11 for illegally using its parking garage to store cars for local dealerships — a practice brought to light when the Sept. 17 fire damaged more than a hundred the cars.

Agency officials slapped Brooklyn Kings Plaza LLC with violations because the parking garage’s certificate of occupancy only allows for “accessory parking” for the mall — meaning shoppers and mall employees — and not for vehicle storage, according to department spokesman Andrew Rudansky.

A buildings-department inspector found multiple new cars being stored at the garage by auto dealers during an Oct. 11 visit, less than one month after more than 135 such cars were torched in an alleged arson that caused an inferno to billow through the multilevel parking lot on Sept. 17.

The owners of the building told the department that they are in the process of removing the cars, but if they remain at the site, the owners could be subject to more violations, according to Rudansky.

Evon Stephens, a 23-year-old Flatlands man, was federally charged with arson for allegedly starting the blaze two days after the fire — which injured 26 people, including 20 firefighters — but one local community leader has cast blame on the owners in light of these violations, adding that issues regarding fire safety had come up at community board meetings in the past.

“The seven-alarm fire that almost devastated the garage is proof positive that if the agencies acted on our complaints, and if Kings Plaza management cared about our safety, the spaces would never have been illegally leased, and the seven-alarm fire would never have happened,” said Community Board 18 district manager Dottie Turano in a statement.

In September 2016, senior property manager Steve DeClara of Macherich Management, which runs the mall, told the community board at its monthly meeting that the company leases a large part of the garage for new cars from the Brooklyn Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership on Flatbush Avenue between Utica and Fillmore avenues, according to Turano, but insisted that the mall had no issues with lack of parking as a result.

And the recent efforts by the management to remove the cars was too little too late, according to Turano.

“Simply put, they shut the stable door after the horse bolted!” she said.

The manager of the Brooklyn Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership, Daniel Del Negro, previously told this paper that it stores between 500 and 600 of its inventory on the third, fourth, and fifth floors of the parking garage.

Neither Del Negro or officials at Macherich Management could be reached by press time to comment on the specifics of the deal they had to store unregistered cars.

The city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings will hold a hearing on the violations in the coming weeks and determine whether Macherich Management will be fined, and if so, how much the fine would be.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.