Sandra Marques was 6 weeks into the middle of her first rent-controlled apartment on Jan. 31, 2015, when a fire gutted the building and burned her to death inside. It happened near her sister’s Fort Greene, Brooklyn, home, where she had been temporarily staying with an aunt.
She had just begun a temporary move-in, but the massive fire damaged much of the only place she had known, and put the family in danger from the city’s pending eviction. Miss Marques was cremated.
In Ms. Marques’s apartment near the Brooklyn hospital where she died, charred belongings were thrown, at her sister’s direction, to Ms. Stapleton, the former owner of the burned building. He sold the building for $1.3 million shortly after the fire, to another apartment building owner.
Ms. Stapleton said the person living in the unit was a woman he had renovated several years earlier, when he bought it at foreclosure auctions. He gave her two weeks to get out, but did not charge her rent, according to a complaint she filed in New York County Supreme Court in March 2015.
Ms. Stapleton tried to find her sister a new place to live, but did not get far. The case was resolved amicably in May 2016, but Ms. Stapleton said she was determined to fight for the property, which still served as an ambulance entrance when she had a loss, rather than being auctioned off for low value to its owner.