Brooklyn Blaze Devastates Community Businesses

Residents lament loss of neighborhood staples as owners struggle to cope

By Glenn Zimmerman and Jennifer Millman
|  Sunday, Aug 29, 2010  |  Updated 2:15 PM EDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Top New York News Photos of 2010

NBCNewYork

Photos and Videos
More Photos and Videos

When flames tore through a row of stores on Flatbush Avenue Saturday morning, owners could only stare at the aftermath.

Larry Carlton, a podiatrist who owned one of the five businesses destroyed when a three-alarm fire ravaged the street between Kings Highway and Flatlands Avenue, was in a state of disbelief.

"I don’t believe this," said the doctor who'd been operating there nearly 27 years.

Those in the community were equally affected by the destruction.

"The bagel store I went to a lot ... My podiatrist ... the bank ... All gone," lamented Ed Lawless, who lives in Flatlands.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries in the blaze. Thankfully, no other injuries were reported. But the damage remains.

Bank employees gathered together across the street to bemoan their loss, while others looked mournfully at the debris that was once Mac's Men's Shop -- a staple in the community that Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger said had been on that street for at least 70 or 80 years.

Investigators aren't sure what caused the fire, but they believe it started in a Chinese restaurant on the stretch.

"That’s where the most severe fire damage is," said FDNY Battalion Chief Brian O'Doyle.

The restaurant was connected to the other stores, but a firewall separated it from a neighboring hardware store, the owner of which knew how lucky he was his business didn't go up in flames with the others.

"I thought I lost the store," said the hardware store owner, Alan Butrico. A "fireman came in [and] said, 'You’re good.' I’m very very happy."

People in the neighborhood told NBCNewYork that a building that stood where the furniture center is collapsed and devastated the whole block about 13 years ago -- and now, another tragedy.
 
Officials have already determined none of the burned out structures are safe -- and soon they will all have to be demolished.

"Hopefully I can get into a storefront and get up and running but all the record and everything, it's all destroyed," Carlton said.

The loyalty of Carlton's patients is a tribute to the close-knit community -- and his operation. He didn't hear about the fire from officials; a patient left 39 voicemail messages on his phone.

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
What's New
21st Century Solutions
The NBCUniversal Foundation is partnering... Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out