2018-12-19 / Features

Picking Up The Pieces After Sunnyside Fire

BY LIZ GOFF


An explosive fire broke out after 2 am on Thursday, December 13 in Sunnyside on Queens Boulevard, between 45th and 46th Streets, directly across from the 7 train. The five-alarm blaze spread rapidly through several businesses, but incredibly no one was killed. Twelve injuries have been initially reported among firefighters and civilians who have been hospitalized, with one person listed in serious condition. The fire apparently started at New York Style Eats restaurant (45-02 Queens Blvd.) and spread to the UPS Store, Sidetracks Restaurant, Zen Yai Noodles & Coffee, a hardware store and the Romantic Depot, demolishing all of them. Firefighters took only several minutes to arrive on the scene and the fire was brought under control in about five hours. NYC Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was at the scene and offered his support to all those affected. —Annette Alberts Photos Vinny DuPre An explosive fire broke out after 2 am on Thursday, December 13 in Sunnyside on Queens Boulevard, between 45th and 46th Streets, directly across from the 7 train. The five-alarm blaze spread rapidly through several businesses, but incredibly no one was killed. Twelve injuries have been initially reported among firefighters and civilians who have been hospitalized, with one person listed in serious condition. The fire apparently started at New York Style Eats restaurant (45-02 Queens Blvd.) and spread to the UPS Store, Sidetracks Restaurant, Zen Yai Noodles & Coffee, a hardware store and the Romantic Depot, demolishing all of them. Firefighters took only several minutes to arrive on the scene and the fire was brought under control in about five hours. NYC Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was at the scene and offered his support to all those affected. —Annette Alberts Photos Vinny DuPre A coalition of state, city and local business groups, local lawmakers and members of the public came together last week in a joint effort to raise funds for employees of six businesses consumed by a massive blaze in Sunnyside on December 13.

The campaign, spearheaded by the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District (BID), fea­tures a series of relief efforts designed to assist em­ployees who find themselves without paychecks due to the blaze. The group established a Go­FundMe page that collected more than $24,000 in the first hours after the blaze: (www.gofundme.com/sunnyside­fire­relief­fund). Sunnyside Shines, along with its nearly 40 part­nering organizations and individuals, will distribute all of the funds collected as part of the relief effort to provide cash assistance for approximately 100 employees of the six affected businesses, including New York Style Eats, Better Line Hardware, Side­tracks, Zen Yai Noodle & Coffee, Romantic Depot and a UPS Store, a group spokesperson said. The group is hoping to reach a goal of $100,000 through the fundraising effort.

The BID is in the process of creating a tracking system on its website that will provide complete transparency in the fundraising effort, including donors, amounts raised and a complete accounting of how the funds were distributed, the spokesper­son said. The BID hosted an Emergency Resource Fair on December 17 that linked displaced workers with new employment opportunities, and is urging business owners to join the effort by listing job op­portunities. Sunnyside Community Services is also offering the workers guidance in applying for a number of financial, housing assistance, and other municipal benefits.

Sunnyside Shines is working with the city De­partment of Small Business Services and its Emer­gency Response Unit to determine what steps must be taken by businesses seeking assistance. The group is also working to set up an interagency recovery meeting, where owners of the affected businesses may obtain detailed information on services such as low­cost loans and legal assistance.

The offices of NYS Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, NYS Senator Michael Gianaris, NYC Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Congress Member­elect Alexandria Ocasio­Cortez have pledged to assist in the recovery effort. Likewise, the Queens Chamber of Commerce has reached out to the offices of Governor Andrew Cuomo to determine what funds are available to assist the af­fected businesses.

City fire marshals are combing through the charred remains of the fire to help determine what sparked the massive blaze that swept through an entire block of stores. Black smoke from a “back­draft” blast shot across Queens Boulevard, en­veloping seven firefighters, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. The firefighters, who were shel­tered from the blast by bunker pants, helmets and protective hoods, walked away with only minor in­Surveying juries. “We have a bit of a miracle here,” Nigro said. More than 200 firefighters responded to the scene and a total of 64 units were on hand to help battle the blaze. The fire originated in the New York Style Eats diner, fire officials said. The cause remains under investiga­tion.

Footage released by the FDNY reveals the power of the explosion known as a backdraft. The fireball was caused by combustion that occurred in a common loft space, known as a cockloft, located beneath the roof of the building. The explosion cre­ated by the backdraft made the fire “run” through the connected buildings. The explosion injured 12 people including 7 firefighters.

“A massive wall of smoke and flames, the back­draft explosion and a building collapse made this a very tense scene,” a fire department source said. “The department called a mayday after the explo­sion and building collapse that sent firefighters scrambling to assist others who may have been trapped.”

Firefighters from Ladder 116 in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City were among those caught in the backdraft explosion. “Luckily, the fire­fighters suffered only minor injuries,” the fire de­partment source said. “The 116 truck chauffeur took a direct blast from the explosion and walked away. It was like some kind of miracle.”

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