The offices of the Brighton Neighborhood Association were left in ruins following a massive May 17 flood — a disaster that the director of the 34-year-old advocacy group claims was man-made.
“We’ve been here for years and yesterday we walk in and there was a rain forest in our office,” Brighton Neighborhood Association head Pat Singer told us last week. “We thought there was a building collapse, so we called the fire department. They said someone removed a vent on the roof, creating a hole that all the water came through. How do you create a hole in the roof and not cover it up?”
But Singer believes she knows who’s responsible: She says she doesn’t have enough evidence to get police involved, but she’s pointing a finger at her building’s new owner, whom she claims has been trying to get her to move out for months.
The owner, Zproekt, bought the Brighton Neighborhood Association’s building along with several other properties on Brighton Beach Avenue near Brighton 13th Street for $4.8 million in July, 2010. Earlier this year, Singer claims a representative from the company came to her with plans to expand — plans that Singer, who has been paying rent month-to-month for more than 30 years, is not a part of.
Zproekt wanted her out in two months, but she refused, claiming that she couldn’t move until after this summer’s Brighton Jubilee, an annual street fair the Brighton Neighborhood Association organizes.
The flood was punishment for her refusal, Singer claims.
“A lot of important papers and memorabilia were destroyed,” she said. “We’re not going to be able to salvage the memories we collected here.”
Those “memories” were pictures of people who made an impact in Brighton Beach over the decades. Singer, who’s seen Brighton Beach transform from a poverty-stricken, crime-infested neighborhood into a popular Russian enclave, had hoped to donate the pictures to someone who would want to create a museum dedicated to the seaside community.
“When I realized everything was damaged, I got really teary-eyed,” she said. “But I have to be strong and fight this because what happened is wrong.”
Calls to Zproekt seeking comment were not returned.
In February, the city’s Department of Buildings approved his plans to add two floors and turn the bottom levels into medical offices.