Fire Leads to Devastating Flooding in Warren Street Building

Lisa Ecklund-Flores removes valuable collections of classical compositions from her office. “I’m trying to preserve this music by getting it out of here,” she said. “And we’ll see. I don’t know.” Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 30, 2014

It took just one small electrical fire on a Saturday evening late last month to upend the lives of a family, a fledgling small business and a school.

Extension cords sparked a fire March 22 in a third-floor apartment at 72 Warren St., according to Fire De­partment spokesman Frank Dwyer. The fire set off the unit’s sprinkler system and even before firemen arrived, water was pouring into the spaces below.

Water gushed for hours into the second-floor loft where Katherine Hill and Marco Moretti have lived and worked for 20 years. The destructive downpour continued into the mezzanine administrative offices of the Church Street School for Music & Art, and then onto the ground floor where Val Chan had only recently opened Stitched Tribeca, her crafts store, workspace and gallery.

Dwyer, the FDNY spokesman, described third-floor apartment 3E, where the fire began, as a “Collyers’ Mansion,” a reference to the home of the famed hoarding brothers in the 1940s. It is a term that firefighters use to describe a dwelling so packed with clutter that it is a danger to the occupants and emergency responders. The tenant of the apartment, Tom Brigham, could not be reached for comment.

Asked about the fire and flooding, Charles Karp, the building manager of 72 Warren, replied, “I only have one thing to say to you. The cause is under investigation and we had some water damage and the insurance companies are working out who’s going to pay for what.”

Following are three stories of loss and uncertain futures for those struck by the downpour of that Saturday night.


Family Loses Both a Home and a Business, All at Once

Marco Moretti was inside the family’s second-floor apartment with his 13-year-old son, Lorenzo, that night when, a little after 8 p.m., they were startled by what they said sounded like a waterfall. “When we heard the sound of the water on the window and on the air conditioner, the first thing that we thought [was] there was a tempest or something,” Mo­retti recalled as he stood among the piles of drenched belongings and work equipment that were stacked everywhere.

Moretti said he then walked to the front of the loft and found it under about six inches of water.

Click here for video taken by the family during the downpour.

Until that night, Moretti and his wife, Katherine Hill, had been running a communications and branding company, FDT Design, out of their loft. Now they and their son are at once homeless and out of work. Their vagabond status has led them to spend a few nights in local hotels and depend on the kindness of friends to put them up until they can find temporary housing that they can afford. The landlord, they say, is planning to make the apartment liveable again but that could take at least six months.

Hill said this disaster came on the heels of already difficult recent years for the business. “We’re destitute now,” she said. I don’t know how we’re going to rebuild.”

The family does not have renter’s insurance, Hill said, and will likely not be able to stay in the neighborhood where they have lived since 1994.
The brown water that poured through the ceilings and into the apartment damaged about two-thirds of the live/work loft space, as well as many of the family’s belongings, including the business’s computers, monitors, printers, shelves of books, their son’s mattress and even the family’s shoes. “It’s as if a swimming pool dropped into our home,” Hill said.

As for work, Hill said, “We’re basically out of business now.” Their son Lorenzo is living with friends who opened up their home so he could regain some sense of normalcy. “He’s traumatized,” Hill said of him. “We are all trying to keep it together.”

Friends of the family have started the Hill-Mor­etti Family Fire Fund at www.gofund­­me.­com/hillfire.


A New Store Owner's Dreams Are Washed Away

Val Chan, a Battery Park City resident, opened Stitched Tribeca, her crafts shop and gallery, in the storefront space at 72 Warren this past October. The new business, she said, was just starting to gain momentum in workshops, sewing classes and summer camp enrollment when the flooding brought it all to a halt.

When the Trib visited Chan in the empty storefront a few days after the fire, she had removed all the soaked textiles and art, thrown out all the destroyed goods and found herself alone among the bare walls and shelves of what had been her new store.

“Honestly, it was like someone slamming the door on my coffin,” said Chan, who tried hard to salvage as many of her yarns, fabric and textile samples as possible and, more than anything, the artists’ wares she was retailing on consignment. All her dampened sewing machines and any goods she managed to save have been laid out to dry in her living room. At least, she said, she was able to salvage eight rag dolls that a group of girls was working on. She plans to deliver them to the children personally.

Chan expects that the ceiling and walls will have to be replaced, but she can’t say how long it will take or whether she will be able to start over. “Can my store be what I originally envisioned it? I don’t know,” she said. “This was the time that the business was about to ramp up.”

The World Trade Art Gallery, 74 Trinity Pl., hosts a Stitched Tribeca “Knit-Along” on April 5 and April 12 from noon to 3 p.m. Come to knit or just say hello. For more information, go to


At Church Street School, Offices Flooded from Above

Lisa Ecklund-Flores, co-founder and director of the Church Street School for Music & Art, was at home with her husband, Jon Flores, in Tarrytown that even­ing when the phone rang and they got the news. They arrived at the school around 10:30 p.m.

“I knew it was water, but I didn’t know it was going to be pouring down like Niagara Falls,” she said. “It was devastating to see all of this water falling on top of our computers, on top of our desks, on top of our important papers.”

The school, which houses its administrative offices on the mezzanine level of 72 Warren Street below the Hill-Moretti apartment and next door to its main building, was in complete disarray the week after flood.

As Ecklund-Flores and others cleaned up and dehumidifiers hummed, debris lay scattered on desks (including over much of the paperwork from last month’s benefit), and computers and musical instruments had been set out to dry. An air conditioning unit hung precariously by a single bracket near a gaping hole in the ceiling that revealed the floor of the family’s loft above. Down­stairs, in the performance space, staff worked at desks in a makeshift office.

Amid the water damage that the school is still assessing are several guitars, an electric piano, all the phones, printers, a dozen computers and associated keyboards and monitors.

“I’m really concerned about the music, because some of those scores are really expensive, and I’ve got a whole bookshelf filled with music,” Ecklund-Flores said.

Even more painfully personal are the damaged paintings, artwork and other belongings of Susan Duncan, the school’s former associate director, who died of cancer in 2009. “I’ve always kept her all around me by keeping her stuff all around me,” Ecklund-Flores said, speaking through the mask that she makes sure to wear while sorting through the wet items.

Despite the improvised look of the temporary office space, classes and performances were running as usual the week after the flood. “There’s a little bit of this scrappy do-or-die attitude at Church Street School that’s got us through a lot of fixes,” Ecklund-Flores said.

This month, the Church Street School will hold fundraising events dedicated to its recovery. To make a direct donation to the school’s Office Recovery Fund, go to

See video