Displaced victims of Flatbush fire call for relief

Kimberly Scott and Shana-Kay McDougall, two displaced tenants of 222 Lenox Road.
Photo by Ben Verde

Kim Williams was at home in bed on Nov. 3 when she received a notification on her phone that there was a fire nearby. She prayed that the people affected would be okay, before going back to sleep. 

Soon after, the Citizen App sent out an update with the affected address: 222 Lenox Road, her apartment building. She jumped out of bed, got dressed, and ran downstairs with her neighbors. 

Over 150 firefighters responded to the blaze between Rogers and Nostrand avenues, eventually extinguishing a fire that raged primarily in between the roof and the top floor. Though the inferno spared Flatbush Congressmember Yvette Clarke’s ground floor office, it rendered close to 24 apartments completely uninhabitable. 

Displaced residents were put up in hotels by the Red Cross, but their vouchers are set to expire this week, and many tenants say they’ll be forced into the city’s shelter system. 

Tenant Kimberly Scott fears she and her son will be moved to a homeless shelter by the middle of this week. She has been living out of a hotel in South Williamsburg since the fire but will have to leave on Nov. 10.

In an interview with Brooklyn Paper, she accused the building’s manager, Pinnacle Management, of being unresponsive. 

“It’s just been a nightmare,” Scott said. “We’re being treated like we caused it, like it’s our fault.” 

Scott and other tenants are calling on Pinnacle to do more in assisting the displaced residents, some of whom lost all their possessions in the fire.

“They have multiple properties, why are we not being put in other properties?” asked tenant TJ Walker. “That’s their obligation — this wasn’t our fault, this wasn’t a negligent fire.” 

That night, firefighters broke open the window to Walker’s sixth floor apartment to gain access to the fire, leaving a gaping hole in the building. On Monday, the hole remained open, which tenants say has allowed access from the elements, pests, and scavengers seeking to steal from the damaged apartments. 

“It’s open season on my apartment right now,” Walker said. “Anybody could go in — animals, elements, you name it.” 

A destroyed apartment on the sixth floor of 222 Lenox Rd.Provided

Multiple tenants say they suspect the fire was a result of work being performed on the roof by the management company. A spokesperson for Pinnacle Management declined to discuss the cause of the fire, which remains under investigation, according to the Fire Department. 

Pinnacle, owned by billionaire Joel Weiner, has an extensive portfolio of buildings throughout Brooklyn and the Bronx, and a long history of legal troubles and disputes with tenants. It has been the subject of criminal investigations by the Manhattan district attorney and has been accused by tenants of violating rent stabilization laws. 

The company’s rep told Brooklyn Paper Pinnacle is working to complete repairs so that tenants may return to their apartments.

“Management has been working every day to complete repairs and will continue to coordinate with the Department of Buildings so the remaining tenants can return to their homes as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, displaced tenants are looking out for each other. Williams, the president of the building’s tenant association, has worked to find food donations while gas is out in the building, and keep her neighbors out of the shelter system if possible, though time is running out. 

“Management hasn’t given any assistance to the people who were displaced,” she said. “They’re not trying to take ownership that it was their fault.”