News | Morningside Heights

Cause of Citibank fire confirmed, but owners nowhere to be found

  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    LEFTOVERS | Debris scatter the roof of the former Citibank building on 111th Street and Broadway. An FDNY spokesperson said Tuesday an electrical fire in the basement caused the daylong blaze.
  • Avi Schwarzschild for Spectator
    BOARDED UP | Citibank remains closed. No new details on new building.

The daylong, six-alarm fire that raged through the Citibank on 111th Street and Broadway earlier in January was caused by an electrical fire in the basement, a New York Fire Department spokesperson said Tuesday.

The Jan. 11 fire burned for more than 12 hours, brought over 200 firefighters to the scene, injured seven, and caused extensive damage to the bank and nearby businesses.

The fire department spokesperson did not comment further about the details of what sparked the electrical fire. No new details have surfaced about the future of the building. 

Adding to the mystery is the fact that both owners listed on the property deed died two years ago.

The building was co-owned by brothers John and Waldo Hutchins, who both died in 2012. Humes & Wagner, LLP, the law firm listed on the most recent property deed could not be reached for comment regarding the state of the estate.

The contractor in charge of cleanup, Adelhardt Construction, did not have a working message system to request more information.

Citibank also declined to comment further, with spokesperson Andrew Brent repeating an earlier statement that “we will have more to say on our plans to serve local residents, students, faculty and staff soon.”

 The bank has set up two ATMs in a van outside the boarded-up building. A sign outside the van instructs patrons to commute to branches at Amsterdam Avenue and 123rd Street or Broadway and 96th Street for in-person transactions. 

According to Brent, the safe deposit boxes in the burnt-out building, which were a concern immediately following the fire, are being held at a “central location where the boxes are locked and secure.” 

“We are reaching out to customers with safe deposit boxes and asking them to come... review and retrieve the contents,” he said.

Radmila Milentigevic was a regular patron of the 111th Street bank, and she was shocked to find it closed on Monday.

“I was in Europe for a couple of weeks, and now it’s blocked,” she said.  Milentigevic was particularly unhappy with the situation because she said she only does her banking face-to-face with an individual and was therefore disappointed with the ATM option.  

Susan Doubilet, another patron, was happy to use the ATM but said that she knew she would have to find a new bank location.

“I’m glad they set this up,” she said about the van,  but “if they don’t set up a new [bank] soon, I would switch banks.”

Milentigevic was upset that she had to come to the location to find out what had happened: “They could have at least sent us some information. I have no other complaints, the bank served me well, and I hope it will in the future.” 

eva.kalikoff@columbiaspectator.com  |  @evakalikoff

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