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'Sick Individual' Behind 6 Fires in Luxury Waterfront Residence: Managers

By Gwynne Hogan | July 19, 2016 4:26pm
 Fire marshals are investigating five fires at the luxury building located at 184 Kent Ave.
Fire marshals are investigating five fires at the luxury building located at 184 Kent Ave.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

WILLIAMSBURG — There have been a half dozen suspicious fires in a luxury apartment building on the waterfront owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law in the past four months — and the building's management is blaming the spree on a "sick" resident.

The Austin Nichols House at 184 Kent Ave, a converted, centennial warehouse owned by Jared Kushner, sent a letter to residents earlier this month that warned that a resident was behind a rash of fires currently under investigation by the Fire Department.

"[We] have put into place additional security to protect you and your property," reads the letter, sent July 9. "Since it appears that the fires were started by a resident of the building, we ask that you report to management anything that you see or hear that seems suspicious."

"Ownership and management have been proactive in dealing with these fires which appear to have been deliberately set," they added, describing the firestarter as an "obviously sick individual."

The blazes began in March and have all been put out by the fire department, according to FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer and reports.

There were four fires in June alone — including one on June 17 that began on the fourth floor and was put out in just under a half hour. Three days later, a fire ignited on a stovetop on the 5th floor at around 9:30 p.m. A fire on June 29 fire began in a trash room on the fifth floor. Another fire began the next day, officials said.

Fire officials had been in the apartment twice before, first on March 12 and then again on May 27, when there was a small rubbish fire on the fifth floor that firemen put out just before 1 p.m, Dwyer said. 

The rash of fires was first reported by Curbed.

No one had been injured in any of the flames and an investigation is ongoing, Dwyer said. 


On Tuesday, tenants got an email from management saying that the regularly scheduled demolition had been canceled indefinitely with no further explanation. Attorneys at Holland & Knight representing building management didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.

The Austin Nichols House, a centennial factory once home to Wild Turkey distributor, was taken over by Kushner's real estate company Kushner Companies last year, the Real Deal reported. They plan to convert the 338 residential units into condos in a $414 million deal, according to the Real Deal.

Since then many of the apartments have been emptied out and are being renovated and most of the fires have taken place in unoccupied parts of the building, tenants said."It's a ghost town," said Nathan Tondow, 27, who's lived in the building for two years and estimated that about a quarter of the 338 units are being lived in. 

“I don’t feel like I’m being forced out but...when they do the hallways it's going to be unbelievable. They’re doing apartments and it's getting dust everywhere."

Water damage from one of the blazes caused the prolonged closure of the beleaguered coffee shop on the ground floor Pudge Knuckles, Gothamist reported.