Tag Archives: Rescue 4

Popular Maspeth restaurant O’Neill’s is back in business


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Just about everyone in Maspeth remembers when O’Neill’s restaurant and bar was reduced to ashes after a grease fire in 2011.

It was a devastating moment for the community, as the popular bar has been a staple in the neighborhood since 1933.

After extinguishing the blaze, local firefighters found within the rubble, the American flag that had flown over the watering hole. They held on to it for more than two years and encased it in a plaque that was presented to the owners of O’Neill’s during the bar’s grand reopening on Friday.

“It’s nice that we are able to give a little something back to them,” said Captain Joe Gandiello of FDNY Rescue 4. “This place has been here for forever it seems and it’s just a nice touch. It’s all we can do.”

During the summer the owners were hinting at a comeback. They eventually had a soft opening for the bar a few weeks ago and delayed the full ceremony for September 27.  But even during the soft opening, the bar was packed.

“I’m not only happy for myself, I’m happy for the community, because evidently they have been waiting for us to open,” said owner George O’Neill. “The night we opened, when we opened the door you couldn’t get in here.”

Representatives from Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Congressmember Joe Crowley’s offices gave proclamations to the bar owners.

Just like it was before it was closed, the bar was bustling with so many local customers during its grand opening it was hard to walk around. Most came to the eatery because it was their favorite spot and to see old friends.

“It’s been gone for a long time,” said Tommy Young, a resident of Middle Village. “A lot of people used to get together here so I got to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Except for the fact that all the furniture and equipment is new, nothing has changed at O’Neill’s. There is still an area for fine dining, but also booths with mini TV screens for sports fans to watch what they want while they eat and of course the main bar in the center of the restaurant that anchors the bistro. The menu hasn’t change much either. There are still steaks, the popular Buffalo wings and brick-oven pizza.

There are more than 45 flat screen televisions around the bar and the owners have  added a catering room that can hold up to 200 people. They’ve also added a sprinkler system in the basement.

“Everything is pretty much brand new,” said manager Danny Pyle. “We’re thrilled to be able to serve the neighborhood. And they seem to feel the same way we do.”

 

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Deadly fire in Woodside


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Woodside residents received a terrifying wake-up call in the early hours of November 18 – a two-alarm fire running rampant in their community.

“I was asleep and all of a sudden I heard a huge explosion,” said Connor Ratliff, who lives a block away from where the blaze erupted. “I looked out my back window and I saw these giant flames.”

The fire, which spawned in a house located at 40-38 61st Street, eventually spread and caused severe damage to two neighboring homes.

The FDNY was initially notified at 1:15 a.m.

“When we first arrived, there was a very heavy amount of fire in the initial building,” said Rescue 4 Captain Joe Gandiello. “The power lines had come down in front of the building and landed on Ladder 163’s trucks. It was a very chaotic scene. Firefighter Ron Daly was assigned to check the rear of the fire building and upon his arrival he was met by a civilian who had self evacuated, and he told Ron there were people still trapped in the house. At this point most of the house was on fire. Ron broke the window into the rear bedroom, climbed in and found a [63-year-old man] unconscious. He dragged him back to the window and handed him out to Firefighter John Tew. There was also a dog with the man and [Daly] passed the dog out the window as well. Having witnessed Firefighter Daly remove this man, it was one of the most courageous acts I’ve seen in my 27 years in the fire department.”

According to an FDNY spokesperson, one resident, who was trapped inside the burning, two-story house, died in the blaze, and five people – four residents and a firefighter – were injured. The residents were taken to nearby hospitals, three of them with unknown injuries and one 54-year-old victim with burns to their face. The firefighter suffered minor injuries.

Ratliff, who admits he has never heard anything like the explosion before, feared the worst when he heard the boom.

“I left my building because I wanted to know what was going on, because we are in the flight path of LaGuardia,” he said. “All I heard was an explosion and planes so I thought someone dropped a bomb on the neighborhood. It was terrifying.”

The inferno required the work of 25 trucks and over 106 firefighters before finally settling down at 3:10 a.m.

As of press time, the cause of the fire remained unknown.

One Woodside resident speculated that the number of people living in the home contributed to the outbreak of flames.

“There are too many illegal conversions around here,” he said. “If one family lived there – a couple with their kids – this would never have happened. But people are buying one family houses all around here and converting them into two and three family houses.”

In the wake of the tragedy, members of the Woodside community united on November 19 for a vigil in front of the remains of the burned houses.

“I met one guy who lived next to the house where the first started. He, his wife and his kids lost everything,” said Daniel Gilland, who lives two houses away from where the fire raged. “He was still kind of in shock. I met another family that lived in that same house, and they had some pictures they could salvage, but most of their stuff was gone too.”

Roughly 20 people attended the vigil in support of the residents who lost their homes, and in memory of the victim who lost much more.

“We wanted to pray for the victims and the person who died,” Gilland said. “As a community we want to get together and do whatever we can for them.”

The American Red Cross, which responded to the scene of the fire, has provided five families – 13 adults and 4 children – whose homes have become unlivable after the blaze with emergency housing in area hotels. Four of the families were given emergency funds to purchase food and clothing, and the Red Cross has made support services, including mental health services, available to the victims as well.

According to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a clothing drive is also being organized to aid the victims of the fire.

“I think Woodsiders are a very caring and united group of people who are quick to respond to the needs of others,” said the councilmember. “As we saw with September 11 memorials, it is a neighborhood that doesn’t forget and comes together in times of tragedy and need and does for others. Woodisders are very much there for each other.”