2017-06-14 / Front Page

A/C Unit Sparked Piu Bella Blaze

By Liz Goff
Fire marshals probing the cause of a smoky blaze at a Forest Hills restaurant last month have determined that an overheated air conditioning unit was to blame.

Fire marshals said the blaze that broke out on May 24 on the roof of the Piu Bella Italian Restaurant at 107-02 Queens Boulevard was sparked by heat and other sources generated by the faulty air conditioning unit.

Neighbors told the Gazette they heard a “dull boom” moments before the building was engulfed in smoke and flames.

“It looked like the whole building was on fire,” a local man said. “It looked like thick, black smoke was coming from the whole building. The smoke filled the air for many blocks.”
One person suffered minor injuries, but refused medical treatment, the spokesperson said.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze and had it under control within approximately 45 minutes.

The roof suffered major damage from the blaze, fire officials said. The restaurant interior suffered serious smoke and water damage that will require an undetermined amount of time to repair, a restaurant manager said. It remains unclear when the restaurant will reopen.

A restaurant manager said the owners are waiting to hear from the building owners to determine if they are willing to assist with necessary repairs.

“That’s the key, a first step in getting back to business,” the Piu Bella manager said.

A report posted in December on the YIMBY (Yes, In My Back Yard) real estate website indicated that the owner, RJ Capital Holdings, is planning to demolish the building to make way for development of an 8-story, luxury office tower at the site.

The city Department of Buildings has issued a demolition permit for the existing structure, but it is unclear when work will begin at the site.

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