FDNY investigating Bensonhurst blaze

December 7, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The fire destroyed the interior of the two-story building and disrupted service on the D train. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas
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Fire Department officials are investigating to determine the cause of a three-alarm fire that ripped through a commercial building in Bensonhurst on Sunday morning, sending flames and smoke shooting into the air and disrupting local subway service.

FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard told the New York Daily News that the three-alarm fire at 8501 New Utrecht Ave. appeared to be suspicious. “We had very heavy fire on arrival in an unoccupied building, which that by itself needs to be investigated,” the Daily News quoted Leonard as saying.

The fire erupted at around 7:11 a.m., according to officials, who said more than 130 firefighters were at the scene working to bring the inferno under control. The building’s roof collapsed and bricks from the structure’s facade came tumbling down, hitting the sidewalk, officials said.

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There were no injuries reported.

The two-story building was unoccupied at the time of the fire. The building housed two small shoe stores that had recently opened on the first floor. A third space had been under renovation, although no work was taking place at the time of the fire. A children’s clothing store was slated to open there.

Smoke from the fire was billowing into the morning sky and could be seen for blocks around.

The one thing residents in that part of Bensonhurst did not see Sunday morning was subway service.

The building is located next to the elevated tracks of the D subway line, which runs along New Utrecht Avenue, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) rerouted D trains to the N line to avoid having the trains pass right next to the fire.

Residents living nearby who are used to hearing the sounds of D trains rumbling along the elevated tracks instead heard fire engine sirens and the sounds of water being sprayed as firefighters tried to put out the blaze.

The fire was declared under control approximately two hours after firefighters arrived at the scene.

Records from the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) showed that two complaints had been filed against the building between August and October. On Aug. 18, a complaint charged that construction work was taking place at the site despite the fact that DOB permits had expired. On Oct. 5, there was a complaint that windows were being installed and that carpentry work was taking place without a permit, according to DOB records.

DOB records show that the building is owned by an entity known as Unlimited Charles Realty Corp.

D train service had largely been restored in time for rush hour on Monday morning. But the trains were bypassing the 18th Avenue station, the stop closest to the fire scene. Signs were posted at the station’s entrances to direct straphangers to the 79th Street stop or the 20th Avenue station where they could board the D train.


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