Vagrants did this
Landmark warehouse on fire
Blaze landlord in failed biz deal
Warehouse sale fell thru
BY RUSS BUETTNER, ALISON GENDAR, TONY SCLAFANI and CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
The suspicious inferno that devoured historic warehouses on the Brooklyn waterfront erupted just months after a $420 million deal to sell the property to a reputed slumlord fell apart.
Fire marshals and NYPD arson investigators yesterday were poring over business records of the Greenpoint Terminal Market's owners, Joshua Guttman and his son, Jack, sources said.
The investigators also were looking at Baruch Singer, who had tried to buy the warehouses and then sued the Guttmans after the deal collapsed and they refused to return his $42 million down payment, the sources said.
Investigators stopped short of calling any of the men suspects.
"Nothing has been ruled out, but it is fair to say that we are zeroing in on him [the elder Guttman] and all the people he has had business dealings with - or problems - on the property," a source said.
Joshua Guttman's lawyer and wife forcefully denied speculation that the landlord had anything to do with the blaze. "The last thing in the world he would do is start a fire because it doesn't make any sense for him," attorney Joseph Kosofsky said. "He's fully equipped to demolish a building. He was going to do it legally and properly."
"The last thing in the world we need is all of the delays that's going to take place now because of this damn fire."
Guttman's wife blamed vagrants for the blaze.
"There was homeless people constantly there," Vera Guttman said over the intercom of the family's Lawrence, L.I., mansion. "We are honest, reliable, hardworking people." Singer was holding a meeting in his Delancey St. office with a copy of yesterday's Daily News on the table when a reporter asked about the fire. "There's nothing to say," he said. "Goodbye."
Mayor Bloomberg vowed to punish the culprits who set the city's biggest fire - not including the World Trade Center attacks - in more than a decade. "If it is, as some people and some of the fire marshals think, a fire that was deliberately set, we'll try to find out who [set it]," Bloomberg said.
The Greenpoint blaze erupted early Tuesday and burned for nearly 36 hours before being declared under control. Fourteen firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The warehouses, once the home of shipbuilders and manufacturers, had been designated for demolition by the Guttmans - against the wishes of preservationists fighting luxury riverside housing plans.
Landlords, as a rule, are bad businessmen. Vagrants didn't set that whole thing on fire for free. Whoever did this hired a pro. Someone wanted to get paid.
posted by Steve @ 1:18:00 AM