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Fire engulfs former Rhodes site on City Island

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The site of a former bar and grill that was a staple in the community for over 15 years, as well as a local pizzeria, was recently engulfed in flames as firefighters fought desperately to save the two storefronts.

Most of the damage was concentrated at 288 City Island Avenue, the former location of the popular Rhodes, as well as two other bar and grills which subsequently occupied the site.

The commercial space has been vacant for over a year, and escaped much of the fire damage, however, an occupied apartment above the site was completely destroyed. The fire was confined to the rear portion of the property. 

According to the fire department, the blaze began at 12:09 p.m. on Sunday, May 25 in the rear of the pizzeria next door, Filomena’s Pizza and Pasta, located at 286 City Island Avenue.

It quickly spread up the buildings’ wood siding and into the eaves under the ceiling of the facility next door.

“The whole top floor [of 288] is lost,” said FDNY Battalion 7 Chief Kevin Scanlon. “The damage to the restaurant is concentrated in the back of the building.”

Neighbors and other eyewitnesses said they heard an explosion before the fire began, however, those reports have not yet been confirmed. The incident shook neighbors’ nerves.

“I saw it from my window,” said Elliot Glick, who lives a few doors down. “There was black smoke that looked like it was being pushed out of [the former] Rhodes.”

Glick was told to evacuate his apartment. It took hours before he could return.

 “We saw black smoke come up, and said it didn’t look good,” said Hughy Naam, who lives about a block away.

The fire burned for over an hour, until the fire department gained control at 1:19 p.m. According to FDNY Paramedic Chief Steven Lincke, at least three firefighters suffered minor injuries during their attempt to stop the inferno.

Traffic on City Island’s main artery was halted for several hours as firefighters fought the blaze and secured the area from potentially hazardous leaks. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

 Rhodes was a popular bar and grill, known even beyond the Bronx. From its inception in 1988 as a small bar, it grew into a full-scale restaurant, with a large dinning area that encompassed three storefronts and a back deck.

Two other establishments tried to follow in Rhodes’ footsteps, when it sold after more than 15 years in business. The short-lived Gallagher’s and Six Mile Crossing, which both occupied the site in last few years, never developed the broad-based clientele that made Rhodes so special.

Luckily, the occupants of the apartment above 288 City Island Avenue were out of town. All of their possessions were lost.

“My grandfather and father had the apartment in the back of the building,” James Matney, who was at the scene, stated. “They have been away since Friday. The back apartment is pretty much all gone.”

Updated 5:30 pm, October 21, 2011
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