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When a fire looks like arson, smells like arson and occurs a month removed from another fire on the same block…
The suspicions of many Norwood residents were confirmed on Thursday, January 14 and Friday, January 15, when American Diner owner Mohammed Quadir and Christopher Gooding were arrested in connection with a blaze that destroyed the diner, a Foodtown supermarket and Bainbridge Dental on E. 204th Street in December. The neighborhood suffered a fire on Halloween at Bainbridge Avenue and E. 204th Street.
Quadir, 51, remained in jail on Tuesday, January 19 but plans to address the neighborhood soon, possibly through his attorney, his brother told the Bronx Times.
“People suspected arson,” Norwood resident Andrew Laiosa said. “I don’t want to stereotype, but this is the Bronx. We old timers remember when the Bronx was burning. We know what’s possible.”
Quadir, 51, who operated the diner for three years or so, had purchased a $500,000 insurance policy before the blaze and owed the restaurant’s prior owner thousands of dollars, unnamed sources told newspaper reporters. Quadir filed an insurance claim after the fire, investigators said.
Quadir, a Gleason Avenue resident, allegedly hired Gooding, 52, to torch his business at around 4:30 a.m. on Monday, December 21. Investigators think Gooding entered through the front door of the diner, left unlocked by Quadir, descended to the basement, poured gas on a shelf of cardboard boxes and used a match to light the fire.
The inferno that resulted ruined three businesses to the tune of more than $1 million, landlord Abraham Abboud of Brooklyn told investigators. The fire also caused heat and char damage to one wall of a Bank of America. Some 200 firefighters worked to extinguish the conflagration.
Quadir, charged with arson, insurance fraud, attempted grand larceny, reckless endangerment, conspiracy and criminal mischief, pled not guilty on Sunday, January 17. He was scheduled to appear in court again on Thursday, January 21. His bail was set at $50,000 cash or $150,000 bond.
“Terrible,” Laiosa said. “I understand that people are under stress and strain but there is help out there. There are elected officials and banks. They could have killed somebody. It was unnecessary.”
Gooding, charged with arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, pled not guilty on January 15 and was scheduled to appear in court again on Tuesday, January 19. His bail was set at $150,000 cash or $300,000 bond.
The arrests have caused some Norwood residents to reconsider the Halloween fire that destroyed ten businesses and damaged several more.
“You do second guess what happened,” Laiosa said.
Hillside Meat Market owner Sal Mirra, who had his business was damaged in the Halloween fire, has yet to regain gas. The arrests shocked Mirra, he said.
“There were rumors, but you don’t want to believe [that the two fires] were connected,” Mirra explained.
He only knew Quadir enough to wave hello.
“Probably a desperate act from a desperate guy,” Mirra said.
The owners of the Foodtown that burned in December hope to expand the supermarket.
“We’re strong and resilient…a solid working class neighborhood,” Laiosa said. “We’ll survive.”
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or email@example.com
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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