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Williamsburg Storage Fire Still Burning, May Have Destroyed Sensitive Docs

By Serena Dai | February 2, 2015 3:37pm
 More than 70 firefighters were still at the waterfront CitiStorage site after a Saturday fire sent smoke across north Brooklyn.
Williamsburg Storage Fire
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WILLIAMSBURG — More than 70 firefighters were still working to extinguish a blaze on the Williamsburg waterfront Monday after a storage facility caught on fire over the weekend, potentially burning sensitive documents ranging from court records to financial information, officials said.

The CitiStorage facility at 5 N. 11th Street was still smoldering Monday, more than two full days after the fire broke at the building, which was filled with paper documents, FDNY officials said.

The firefighters were there to monitor the blaze and minimize "hot spots," an FDNY spokesman said. Officials had no estimate on how long it would take for the fire to die down. The smell of smoke still hung in the air and even in some L train cars Monday.

The blaze at the facility, located near Kent Avenue, started Saturday around 6 a.m., sending huge plumes of smoke across North Brooklyn.

The ongoing fire meant that the several hundred companies and agencies that kept documents at the building had few answers about the extent of the damage.

CitiStorage owner Recall Holdings hasn't been able to get inside to fully assess the situation, said Ron McMurtrie, the company's senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

The New York state court system may have had records on completed cases from Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan civil supreme courts at CitiStorage, which they kept to comply with laws on record keeping, according to Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver. Family court records may also have been in the burned storage building, he said.

The courts haven't heard back from the company about whether their records were in the burned building, said Bookstaver, who added that some documents were located in an adjacent property.

Many members of the Greater New York Hospital Association, which includes more than 140 area hospitals, kept records at CitiStorage, according to spokesman Brian Conway.

It's unclear what kind of documents they were, he said.

"With the fire still burning, it’s been very challenging to get information," Conway said.

Many legal firms also kept files at the building, according to Recall Holdings, as did the city's Administration for Children's Services.

McMurtrie said in a statement that it is Recall Holdings' priority to reach out to affected customers.

Meanwhile, Recall has hired disaster recovery firm Belfor to collect stray records, which flew across north Brooklyn after the fire.

Locals posted photos of documents that appeared to be city and bank records all weekend.

The area around the facility "is essentially clear" of any potentially revealing documents, McMurtrie noted, and Belfor will also be sent to other areas "to minimize the potential for privacy concerns."

"Supporting our customers is our priority at this time, and Recall is committed to keeping all of its customers informed," the company said in a statement.

No one was injured in the fire, but property owner Norman Brodsky, who sold his majority stake of CitiStorage in 2007, reportedly still had a home with his wife in the burned facility.

It was unclear whether he was at home at the time of the fire. Brodsky did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Health Department recommended that locals stay indoors and keep windows closed in light of the smoke.

Despite its pervasive smell, local air quality is unlikely to be a problem for healthy people, the Health Department said. More vulnerable residents — seniors, children and those with respiratory conditions — may have some trouble.

The smell of smoke, the department said, may be around long after "worrisome levels" of smoke are gone.