Judge dismisses claim by former fire marshal alleging FDNY covered up cause of blaze that killed firefighter

Graham Rayman, New York Daily News

A federal judge in Brooklyn has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former FDNY fire marshal who alleged he was targeted for retaliation after refusing to sign off on the department’s investigation of a Harlem fire on the movie set of “Motherless Brooklyn” that killed a firefighter.

Scott Specht was lead fire marshal looking into the cause of the March 22, 2018 blaze that killed firefighter Michael Davidson in a 100-year-old building on St. Nicholas Ave. near W. 149th St. The building was being used as a movie set for the Edward Norton and Alec Baldwin movie “Motherless Brooklyn.”

Davidson, 37, was overcome by toxic smoke when he ran out of air, trapped inside the cluttered basement.

“Long on conclusions but bereft of factual allegations pleading each element of this cause of action, Specht’s complaint claims that the purported ‘cover-up’ was extreme and outrageous and that the retaliatory conduct was directed at him for the purpose of inflicting extreme emotional distress,” U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano wrote in his Nov. 30 decision.

“Specht has nonetheless failed to make out a legally cognizable claim,” he wrote, dismissing the case.

Specht had alleged that senior officials in the Bureau of Fire Investigation tried to coerce him into agreeing that a malfunction in the boiler flue caused the blaze, the lawsuit claimed.

Specht has said though he initially agreed with the findings, he changed his mind after learning more about alterations to the former St. Nick’s jazz club in the building basement, and lighting used by the movie company.

Specht’s lawyer Nathaniel Smith said he’d appeal. “We think the judge erred in several respects,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the movie previously denied Specht’s allegations, as did the FDNY.