Monday, May 24, 2010

Eyewitness of 4-Alarm Fire in Forest Hills: May 23rd around 8:15 PM - 10:30 PM

To The Media:

Our heart goes out to the community and local business owners. On Sunday, May 23rd, around 8:15 PM, a 4-alarm fire began on the corner candy/convenience shop of 99th St and 66th Ave, and extended to the other 99th St shops towards 66th Rd in Forest Hills, NY. Firefighters were also observed on the Queens Blvd frontage.

A number of long-term "mom and pop" businesses which are dear to the neighborhood, such as a candy/convenience store, laundromat, a barber, a fruit store, and a dress shop amongst others were affected on the 99th Street side. The 4 corner businesses were completely destroyed. These have been shops since the 1939 World's Fair, and some are owned by immigrants who established their business from the bottom up. The same development wraps around the corner to Queens Blvd, but fortunately Trylon Liquors, Trylon Vet Care, and Danny's Antiques were spared from the extensive damages. The historic former Trylon Theater, which has ties to the 1939 World's Fair (now a Russian community establishment), has suffered smoke damage and a partial ceiling collapse. The famed Tower Diner, which was formerly Emigrant Saving Bank with its Colonial clock tower, also suffered smoke damage. Thankfully, no one was killed, and at least 1 cat or other pets from the vet are believed to be rescued. 

I witnessed the bulk of the fire until 10:30 PM. I grew up in Forest Hills for the past 27 years, and have never seen such a potent local fire. There was way over 150 local residents at the scene, and nearly 200 firefighters. It felt as if a majority of the neighborhood came out to observe and mingle with their family and friends. Citizens united in solidarity. I observed tears and shock.

I captured 129 photos from the early stages. Feel free to feature the photos in your stories, as well as my personal account, and grant credit to "Preservationist/Photographer Michael Perlman." Please cover and investigate this catastrophe. Although hope is grim in times like this, we hope the infrastructure and businesses will recover.

- Michael Perlman, Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair


  1. How awful! The economy is hard enough on every body that works and runs a small business for a living , and now this.. Sad about the animals too, but at least everyone else was spared.

  2. Bummer man, no more burgers at 12:30 am :(

  3. This is a well-written article by Conor Greene in the Forum West newspaper:

  4. This is another great article by Shane Miller of the Queens Ledger:

  5. It's always heartbreaking to read stories like this especially one which was so devastating, in terms of local businesses and peoples livelihoods. This underlines the importance of installing Fire Alarms that can provide early warning, to give firefighters the most time and the best chance to tackle these blazes.