Joshua Guttman: The Real Slim Shady

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    As most people know by now, Joshua Guttman, the owner of the Greenpoint Terminal Market which met its own suspicious demise two weeks ago, is no stranger to fires conveniently consuming properties that he wants to redevelop. Yesterday, the Times explored the history of another one of his properties, 247 Water Street, in Dumbo. In this story, the requisite fire was preceded by a “campaign of harrassment,” as former tenants describe it, that included cutting holes in the roof, disabling the elevator and giving keys to the building to a neighborhood crackhead. Here’s what happened when Guttman finally got the tenants out:

    The neighborhood exploded with apartments and tenants paying rents that rivaled those in Manhattan. In 2003, Mr. Guttman applied to have the zoning for the building changed to allow for legal apartments, a boon for the building. On Feb. 11, 2004, the community board recommended that the request be denied.

    Seven days later, 247 Water Street burned. The fire brought a four-alarm response and took firefighters more than 12 hours to extinguish. An investigation was inconclusive. Workers may have been using acetylene torches at the time, the Fire Department said.

    In the two years since the fire, Mr. Guttman has worked with an architect, Robert M. Scarano Jr., and drawn up plans to raise the building to 11 stories. He has received permits to begin rebuilding interior floors ruined in the fire, according to the Department of Buildings, which is investigating allegations that Mr. Scarano has ignoring zoning rules in numerous Brooklyn buildings.

    On Thursday, inspectors from the department ordered that work at the building be stopped pending an audit of the job. But the future of 247 Water Street may be just a matter of time. Across the street, the bricks of No. 260, an apartment building, are new and red, with a little garden ringed by an iron fence, an ornate wood front door and parking in the rear.

    Lofts, a Landlord and a Battle [NY Times]

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