PORTLAND, Maine — Portland-based LIHC Investment Group is being sued as one of three owners of the Bronx apartment building that caught fire and killed 17 people, including eight children, on Sunday.
The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of residents Rosa Reyes, Felix Martinez, and their neighbors, alleging negligence and poorly-maintained safety features.
A malfunctioning space heater sparked the fire, causing New York City’s deadliest blaze in three decades, the Associated Press reported. New York fire officials said the door to the apartment where the flames broke out was left open. Officials said that while the fire never escaped the third floor, smoke poured into the building's stairwells.
The lawsuit alleges LIHC and the other owners maintained the premises. The lawsuit also alleges the owners didn't maintain steel doors that failed to automatically close during the fire and prevent smoke from spreading, failed to ensure smoke detectors were functioning, and failed to provide adequate and lawful heat. The lawsuit goes on to say LIHC had "actual notice of defective conditions at the subject premises which caused the fire prior to January 9, 2022."
LIHC, owned by Charlie and Andrew Gendron, said it does not directly manage the building but owns 40% of it.
Bronx Park Phase III Preservation, LLC, which said it is speaking on behalf of the current owners, including LIHC, said in a statement:
"We are devastated by this terrible tragedy and are cooperating fully with the Fire Department and other agencies as they continue to investigate."
A spokesperson said LIHC owns 69 affordable properties in the United States, including one in Maine.