Tag Archives: Fire

Five injured in Whitestone restaurant fire


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Devon O'Connor, President of Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association

MELISSA CHAN AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Five people were injured, two of them seriously, when a fire erupted inside a popular Whitestone Chinese restaurant Saturday, fire officials said.

Flames broke out at Emperor House Chinese Restaurant around 4:49 p.m., according to the FDNY.

Three victims sustained minor injuries and one man was being treated for second-degree burns at Jacobi Medical Center, authorities said.

Another victim was in serious but stable condition, the FDNY said.

Workers in the 10th Avenue shopping center said a man they believed to be either the restaurant’s owner or manager “came running out on fire.”

“His whole body was burned. His clothes were on fire,” said Angel Soriano, who works at a pizzeria next door.

Soriano said his co-workers tried smothering the blaze with towels while others threw water on the man.

“It was chaos,” said Ken Chieco, who also works at the pizzeria.

Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association, said the fire incinerated a woman’s hair and burned her arm.

The blaze was under control by 5:26 p.m., fire officials said. The cause is under investigation.
Emperor House was boarded up and roped off as of August 12.

Neighbors said they did not know the owner’s name, but described him as kind and friendly.

“When my daughter would work late, he would drive her home,” said Michelle Dejean. “That’s how nice that man is. Very nice people work there.”

 

 

 Updated, Monday, August 12

 

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Body discovered near Forest Park


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via Google Maps

A man walking his dog near Forest Park found a man unconscious and unresponsive.

On Sunday, March 3, around 11:40 a.m., officers responded to a 9-1-1 call of a fire at the corner of Freedom Drive and Park South Drive just off of Woodhaven Boulevard. Police were met by a man walking his dog, who said his dog found the victim. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.

According to the New York Daily News, the victim was a homeless man who died when he accidentally caught fire from a blaze he set to keep warm.

The identity of the deceased is pending proper notiication. The investigation is ongoing.

 

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Two charged with murder, starting fire to cover it up


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Authorities have arrested and charged two men in conjunction with the South Richmond Hill fire that revealed one man tied up and shot.

Jason St. Hill, 17, and Stephen Peters, 22, of Richmond Hill were arrested on Thursday, February 28. Both were charged with kidnapping, arson, murder and burglary, among other charges.

The victim, Azeem Ali, 43, was found unconscious and unresponsive after firefighters extinguished the blaze on 95th Avenue early the morning of Sunday, February 24.

St. Hill and Peters allegedly went to Ali’s second floor apartment to steal money from him. Once inside, Peters punched and pistol-whipped Ali, then tied his hands and feet with electrical cord, according to the criminal complaint.

Peters then went to the basement, where he found gasoline to bring back to Ali’s apartment. St. Hill allegedly held Ali at gunpoint, and Peters demanded Ali’s PIN number and his ATM card.

Then, Peters shot Ali in the head, and poured gasoline around the apartment before lighting it on fire.

After committing the grisly act, St. Hill and Peters allegedly left the scene and went to a gas station where they withdrew $200 cash using Ali’s card.

The pair is being held without bail and will return to court on Thursday, March 14. If convicted, they face up to 25 years to life in prison.

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South Richmond Hill man killed in ‘suspicious’ fire


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

A 43-year-old Asian man was killed in a “suspicious” fire in South Richmond Hill early Sunday morning, police said.

The unidentified victim was found dead on arrival inside a residence at 115-18 95th Avenue on February 24 at around 2:35 a.m. He had severe burns on his body, cops said.

The investigation is ongoing, but authorities say the fatal fire is deemed suspicious at this time.

The identification of the man is withheld pending family notification.

Check back with The Queens Courier for updates on this developing story.

Dromm, DRUM lead rally after Bangladesh factory fire


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

With his handheld camcorder, Gulam Sarwar Harum swept through the chanting crowd, capturing their faces and voices as they bellowed for the workers who perished in a fire in a Bangladesh factory.

“Workers’ rights and human rights! Workers’ rights and human rights!” they yelled, waving homemade signs etched with English and Bengali cries for justice.

“We feel that they are a part of us,” said Sarwar Harum, a member of advocacy group Desis Rising up and Moving (DRUM). “We have to speak on behalf of them.”

South Asian immigrant workers, representatives of DRUM and Councilmember Daniel Dromm rallied at the Jackson Heights Plaza to demand corporate accountability among major American companies that subcontract product assembly to workers overseas. Tensions peaked several weeks ago after a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory that yields merchandise for retailers like Walmart, Sears and Disney claimed 114 lives.

“Workers lost their lives for profit so some organization could make money,” said Fahd Ahmed, DRUM’s Legal and Policy Director at the gathering on Thursday, December 6.

Speakers called for an independent and transparent investigation into the cause of the fire as well as full and fair compensation to workers who were injured and reparations made to the families of the deceased. The group hopes other American brands will become aware of the dangers of unethically sourced goods — and that the human toll is far greater than the money saved by the companies.

Dromm, whose district contains a large Bangladeshi population, believes it’s important for issues abroad to impact stateside, as the corporations involved are based in the United States.

“It’s an American company that really is at fault for this fire,” said Dromm. “It’s the corporate greed of a company like Walmart that allows substandard-type conditions to exist in those companies that they contract out to.”

According to Dromm, the factory, which made girls’ shorts, could have provided better conditions for their workers if brands were willing to raise the price of their items by just a small amount — allowing employees to operate in healthier, safer environments and earn more than the average Bangladeshi salary of $37 a month. Dromm said the retailer’s desire to remain competitive among their price bracket rather than use ethical methods to source their merchandise was “unconscionable” and the reason Walmart and companies like it will struggle to establish stores in New York City.

“Walmart will never get into New York City,” said Dromm. “I will fight them to the very end.”

Breezy Point blaze destroys 80+ homes


| brennison@queenscourier.com

A six-alarm fire destroyed more than 80 homes in Breezy Point as hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze and rescued residents.

The fire broke out at approximately 11 p.m. last night in Breezy Point, one of the neighborhoods Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered evacuated ahead of Hurricane Sandy. Nearly 10 hours later, areas of the flames are still smoldering, along with pockets of fire, officials said.

The fire completely destroyed an area of more than 80 homes. Firefighters had to battle chest-high flooding and needed baots to make several rescues.

Bloomberg said the blaze spread like a forest fire with winds carrying the flames from house to house.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries and was taken to the hospital, authorities said.

 

Headlines from around the web


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The Afternoon Roundup

Pizza delivery boy rapes woman in her Upper West Side home

A demented pizza delivery boy raped an upper West Side woman Saturday as her 7-year-old daughter slept in the bed beside her — and then offered an apology before fleeing, police and the victim said. Cesar Lucas, 16, was busted at his boss’ 10th Ave. pizzeria shortly after dropping off a pie in the building and then sexually assaulting his shocked victim, cops said. NYDailyNews

More Wall Street layoffs are coming

As Wall Street closes the books on Q3, a frightful future may lie ahead. More layoffs are on the way for the big banks, according to prominent bank analyst Glenn Schorr. The Nomura analyst in a recent report warns that many banks, which are still overstaffed, need a more liberal wielding of the ax to squeeze out more profits in the coming years, amid a global market that continues to look sluggish. NYPost

Paramedic partners busted in mysterious 2008 death of estranged wife

Was it the Emergency “Murder” Service? Two paramedic partners who worked together for years on an ambulance out of Jamaica Hospital have been busted in the mysterious 2008 death of the estranged wife of one of the men. Instead of saving lives, Paul Novak and Scott Sherwood are now locked up awaiting their next court date on charges of second-degree murder. NYPost

NY State police report jump in number of meth lab busts

New York state police say they’re responding to far more reports of methamphetamine labs this year than last. They say that troopers answered 45 reports of labs making the illegal amphetamines last year, compared with more than 100 so far in 2012. NYPost

Police investigate Bronx boy’s fall out of window

Investigators are still trying to figure out how a four-year-old boy fell to his death from an apartment window in the Concourse Village section of the Bronx on Saturday afternoon. Neighbors say Gabriel Estevez, seen above, was in the super’s apartment at a building on East 161st Street while his mother was at the laundromat. The fourth-floor apartment did not have window guards. NY1

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Rain and possibly a thunderstorm before noon, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm, mainly after noon. Some of the storms could produce gusty winds and heavy rain. High near 74. Breezy, with a southeast wind 14 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible. Friday night: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 60. West wind 8 to 10 mph becoming northwest after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

EVENT of the DAY: Ella Fitzgerald

A musical that reflects on the life and songs of the legendary jazz/pop vocalist Ella Fitzgerald at Queens Theatre. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Serial arsonist, who set 13 fires in Queens, arrested

A serial arsonist has been arrested and confessed to setting 13 fires in Flushing, including a three-alarm inferno that injured 19 firefighters and two civilians in August, fire officials said. Thien K. Dinh, 43, of the Bronx, was arraigned in Queens on September 15 and charged with starting a series of fires within a three-week span across Flushing and Murray Hill from August 20 to September 13, according to the district attorney’s office. Read more: Queens Courier

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on world to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoked the Holocaust in an impassioned call Thursday for Iran to curtail its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Netanyahu, warning that Iran could produce a functional nuclear weapon by summer 2013, urged world leaders to impose strict limits on the program’s expansion. Read more: Daily News

Bronx teen admitted he shot mother in sleep, beat her with bat: court records

A cold-blooded Bronx teen admitted he shot his mother while she slept – then beat her with bat as she tried to rise, according to court records. Dee “Darwin” Jackson, 16, made the chilling admission to a police detective on Wednesday, just hours after the remains of his mom, Tihesha Savage, 34, were discovered in a dumpster across the street from the family’s home. Read more: NY Post

Garbage cans waste many parking spots on South Ozone Park streets

Some residents in South Ozone Park, Queens are using garbage cans to save parking in their neighborhood, and Department of Sanitation officials are now pledging to issue summonses if they see trash cans out on the street. Read more: NY1

World’s largest Ferris wheel coming to Staten Island

The Big Apple is getting another “biggest”: the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, part of an ambitious plan to draw New Yorkers and tourists alike to the city’s so-called “forgotten borough.” The 625-foot-tall, $230 million New York Wheel is to grace a spot in Staten Island overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline, offering a singular view as it sweeps higher than other big wheels like the Singapore Flyer, the London Eye and a “High Roller” planned for Las Vegas. Read more: NBC NY

Man’s threat to light self on fire locks down Flushing school


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A 75-year-old Asian man from Bayside is undergoing psychiatric evaluation after he threatened to douse himself with gasoline and light himself on fire in a Flushing park, police said.

The NYPD could not disclose the man’s name because of current medical testing, but said he took over a wooden tool shed in Kissena Park on Colden Street and Geranium Avenue on Tuesday, September 25 at around 12:21 p.m. and made threats to set himself ablaze.

The man had refused to eat for four days in protest, a police source said, although it was not clear what he was demonstrating. He had racked up a laundry list of complaints against him in the past, police said.

A nearby public school, The East-West School of International Studies, had to be locked down, a police source said, while the NYPD’s Hostage Negotiation Team and officers of the 109th Precinct moved in on the scene. The city’s Department of Education did not comment.

The man voluntarily surrendered to authorities and was taken, with no injuries, to Queens General Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, authorities said.

A Parks Department spokesperson said the man is a member of the Korean American Senior Citizens Society (KASCS). Members, the spokesperson said, are allowed to garden for free on “GreenThumb” public, city-owned community parklands like the Kissena Corridor Community Garden, now known as Evergreen Community Garden, in Kissena Park.

Sources on scene said the man’s distress stemmed from issues he had with the Parks land, but that could not be confirmed. The Parks spokesperson said the agency had not removed the man’s gardening privileges.

Serial arsonist, who set 13 fires in Queens, arrested


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A serial arsonist has been arrested and confessed to setting 13 fires in Flushing, including a three-alarm inferno that injured 19 firefighters and two civilians in August, fire officials said.

Thien K. Dinh, 43, of the Bronx, was arraigned in Queens on September 15 and charged with starting a series of fires within a three-week span across Flushing and Murray Hill from August 20 to September 13, according to the district attorney’s office. He faces two counts of second-degree arson, four counts of third-degree arson, 13 counts of first-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree burglary.

“Arson is a callous crime that shows total disregard for the lives and property of those it impacts,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. “I commend our fire marshals in the Bureau of Fire Investigation for their tireless efforts to apprehend this individual whose actions have endangered the lives of New York City residents, injured many firefighters and caused a tremendous amount of property damage.”

Dinh admitted to the offences, according to a criminal complaint, including igniting the blaze at 143-01 45th Avenue near Bowne Street on August 20 that gutted adjacent businesses and totaled the four-story multiple family dwelling.

He said he first broke into the laundromat on the first floor of the building, where officials said the flames originated from, using a hammer to smash through a window and lit clothing and paper on fire, the criminal complaint said.

Dinh also owned up to starting the other rubbish fires that lit up Flushing over the last few weeks, the district attorney said, which caused extensive damage to numerous parked vehicles and multiple buildings. In several instances, Dinh allegedly set fire to 30 to 40 garbage bags lined up on the curb and to furniture thrown out on the sidewalk.

Fire officials said the Bronx resident has 45 prior arrests for many crimes including burglary, property damage and criminal mischief. He is due back in court on October 3.

 

Deli owner bereft after Flushing blaze


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Nineteen firefighters and two civilians were seriously injured after a raging three-alarm fire tore through a four-story home in Flushing early this week, fire officials said.

“It was like a possessed building,” said nearby neighbor Charles G., who did not want to give his last name. “It was a stubborn fire. The fire on the top just refused to die. It kept flaring up in different spots. Even though they put tons of water up there, it kept coming back.”

Flames engulfed the entire multiple family dwelling at 143-01 45th Avenue near Bowne Street at around 2:55 a.m. on Monday, August 20, the FDNY said. Officials said the blaze was controlled by 5:56 a.m.

The two civilians suffered injuries from smoke inhalation and were sent to area hospitals in serious but stable condition, authorities said. Two firefighters were treated and released at the scene, while the other 17 were taken to nearby hospitals. Their conditions were unknown as of press time, an FDNY spokesperson said, but they were all recently released.

Multiple reports say the fire started from a laundromat on the ground floor, but fire officials said the cause is still under investigation.

The raging embers also totaled a five-year-old deli located adjacent to the gutted corner house, leaving business owner Jasvinder Marwaha staring stunned at the debris hours later.

“It’s finished. Everything is gone,” said Marwaha, 50, who owns Indo Pak & American Grocery. “I have a family of three kids and a mortgage I have to pay.”

Marwaha, whose store was closed at the time of the early morning fire, said he could not guess how much money in damages the fire incurred because he was not allowed to go inside yet.

 

Douglaston home destroyed by fire had $1,000s in violations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

A Douglaston home under renovation, ravaged last week by a three-alarm fire, had incurred a laundry list of complaints and racked up thousands of dollars in violations, according to city agencies.

The 39-12 Douglaston Parkway dwelling received 44 complaints since March 2008 from callers saying the ongoing construction work being done at the site exceeded the scope of the approved permit, according to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB).

All complaints were listed as closed, according to the agency, but homeowner David Wei Huang was also pinned for two violations from the DOB and 17 from the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Of those violations, nine were still outstanding, according to the DOB, and were related to the ongoing construction.

Huang was issued a $2,500 fine when construction at the site was found not to be in compliance with approved plans and another $1,200 for failing to safeguard the public and his property. There were other violations for working with an expired permit, the DOB said.

Permits were first issued by the DOB to extend the building horizontally in September 2009, the department said.

The unoccupied home went up in flames last Tuesday, August 14 at around 7:30 p.m., the FDNY said. No injuries were reported.

Bystander Thomas Perrino said he heard three explosions from inside the house, which he said sounded like gas tanks exploding.

The entire building was already swallowed in flames before more than 100 firefighters from 33 units extinguished the blaze by around 9:30 p.m. The infrastructure of the home’s second floor had completely caved in at that point, said the FDNY.

The fire was deemed accidental, according to a spokesperson for the fire department, and was caused by construction work being done with pipes and torches.

Huang could not be reached for comment.

— With additional reporting by Terence M. Cullen

3-alarm fire engulfs Douglaston home


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

More than 100 firefighters battled a blaze at a home on Douglaston Parkway last night.

The fire erupted at 7:50 p.m. at the Douglaston home that was under construction and unoccupied at the time.

“I told the Fire Marshal I heard three explosions,” said Thomas Perrino, of Little Neck.

The explosions sounded like a gas tank, he said.

Thirty-three units and 143 firefighters responded to the flames that completely engulfed the private home.

Firefighters had the 3-alarm blaze under control by 9 p.m.  The fire was contained to the single home, though neighboring homes experienced minor damage.

The FDNY said no major injuries were reported.

— With additional reporting by Terence Cullen

Following 2011 fire, O’Neill’s looks toward November reopening


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

A white SUV pulled alongside George O’Neill as he sat next to the lot where his restaurant — O’Neill’s — is rising from the ashes.

“When are you going to open?”

This is what George O’Neill’s life has become.

The co-owner of the eponymous restaurant and bar sits outside the site that has been in his family for more than 80 years as it’s rebuilt ahead of a mid-November reopening date.

The passer-by in the white SUV was just a sample of O’Neill’s daily routine.

“I’m questioned every day. ‘When are you opening? Can we book a party?’” O’Neill said. “Evidently, it’s more important than I realized.”

The Maspeth fixture burned down on May 2, 2011 in a five-alarm blaze that needed more than 200 firefighters to extinguish.

O’Neill, who lives in Atlantic Beach, was staying in Maspeth that night.

“When I walked out I saw all the fire engines, I figured it was just a fire alarm,” said O’Neill who keeps a place in the neighborhood across the street from the restaurant. “And then all of a sudden, boom.”

Nothing was saved in the fire that burned for days.

More than 1,000 customers joined O’Neill outside the neighborhood fixture early that morning as the flames and word spread.

“I was mesmerized. I didn’t know what to think,” O’Neill remembered of his initial reaction to seeing his family’s place in flames. “It hit me a couple of days later. Oh my God, I’m out of a job.”

The bar has been in the family since 1928 when O’Neill’s father opened what was then called the Plateau Tavern.

As years passed, O’Neill began buying up the property surrounding the watering hole: a grocery store, a barber shop, a liquor store, a cleaners, a bakery, a delicatessen.

Following the fire and out of a job for the first time in his life, O’Neill got restless. He visited his daughters, but ended up back at the restaurant, setting up a table and chairs stationed under an umbrella to monitor the progress being made on the bar.

Frequenters will stop by for a coffee or a chat as O’Neill sits in waiting. Talking with the regulars is what he said he missed most about the bar.

Right now, O’Neill is biding his time on permits so the construction can continue.

He’s also waiting for an electric meter, but doesn’t expect one soon with Con Edison workers still locked out.

“It’s one thing after another,” he said. “When I think about it, it makes me sick. We’re in our 15th month since the fire.”

But O’Neill’s eyes light up when he discusses the plans for the reopened restaurant.

He pointed out where the 125-foot bar will stand and the catering space that can fit 300 patrons. And of course he mentions the dining fare.

“A lot of seafood, prime steaks, wings,” he said. “We’ve always had good food.”

November 13 has been set as the target date for the grand re-opening

“I’m looking forward to it tremendously.”

Queens firehouses in danger


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Politicians, civic leaders and firefighters rallied recently in Queens to prevent 20 fire companies from going up in smoke.

Dozens gathered on Tuesday, May 29 outside Engine 294 in Richmond Hill, one the 20 fire companies that may close due to budget cuts, including students from nearby P.S. 273.

The children, brandishing signs, led the crowd in chants of, “Save our firehouse and you save me.”

This is the fourth consecutive year lack of funding has threatened to close firehouses. Twenty also faced the chopping block last year, but were saved in the final budget.

“We need to make sure that when a budget is passed in New York City, it is a budget that keeps our residents safe,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Council’s Fire and Criminal Services Committee.

No official list has been released of the fire companies that may close, but last year’s list included four in Queens: Engine 294, Engine 328 in Rockaway, Ladder 128 in Sunnyside and in Engine 306 in Bayside.

“Hopefully, no companies close,” said an FDNY spokesperson. “Right now, it looks like it will go that way.”

The city’s budget will be finalized by the end of June.

If Engine 294 is eliminated, it would be the third time in its history it has closed.

The first closing lasted six years – from 1975 to 1981 – and the most recent was in 1991.

Two men were killed in a fire shortly after the closing in 1991.

“If [Engine 294] was here that day, those two men may still be alive,” Crowley said.

Though Engine 294 directly serves Richmond Hill and the surrounding communities of Woodhaven and Ozone Park, closing any companies affects every neighborhood in the city, said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

“If they close 20 fire companies it will affect every neighborhood in the city of New York, not just the ones they close them in, every neighborhood,” Cassidy said.

“If you take Engine 294 out of the equation, response times will rise for medical emergencies and fires.”

Engine companies also provide emergency medical attention, in addition to responding to fires.

“We’re playing with fire, and what happens when we play with fire. We get burned,” said Senator Joe Addabbo. “This is not a game we should be playing. We shouldn’t be playing with fire.”

New York City is ranked last in the number of firehouses per capita, said Eddie Boles of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

“This is our life we’re talking about,” said Maria Thomson, president of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District. “This is life and death.”