Efforts were already underway to rebuild after a blaze ripped through a row of stores and a mosque on the White Plains Road shopping strip in Williamsbridge.
Seven businesses and the mosque were destroyed in the five-alarm fire that broke out shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday, May 2 in a garage around the corner from the shopping strip between E. 225 and E. 226th Streets, while smoke and heat damaged a nearby building.
Miraculously, only one bystander needed to be treated for smoke inhalation, and ten firefighters sustained minor injuries.
Fire officials said the fire beganan in a fully-detached rear garage behind 3985 White Plains Road and quickly spread to the row of stores.
It was declared under control by 9:46 a.m., with the cause of the fire still under investigation.
Community Board 12 chairman Father Richard Gorman said the board coordinated a meeting with the business owners and the leaders of the Masid-Al-Huda mosque, and various city agencies who will be involved in the rebuilding.
“Our concern would be that all of these businesses can relocate in the community essentially in the same area,” said Gorman, who added that he will be working with the landlord of the buildings that burned. Gorman added that Bronx Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Lenny Caro also will be working with landlords throughout the area, to ensure a speedy relocation of the businesses.
About 30 residents from a nearby building on E. 225 Street behind the scene of the fire also had to be temporarily evacuated, said Gorman.
For the mid-Friday noon “Jum’ah” prayer on May 3, members of the mosque gathered at Rienzi Playground about a block away from the fire, and several members said that they felt relieved that after a meeting that morning at the CB 12 district office with representatives from the mayor’s office and from city government, as well as Councilman Andy King.
“They promised to help us a lot,” said Masid-Al-Huda worshipper Yannal Khan, 67, of the meeting with city officials. “We have an appointment to look at a building later today.”
A fellow worshipper added that the mosque is looking to share space with a church or another house of worship and is asking the public for donations to rebuild.
Gorman expressed concern that there might have been some issues with a use at the garage where the fire began, and said that he hoped that it was not being used improperly.
Tyrone Gordon, 38, who lives about a block away from the fire on E. 226th Street, said his thoughts were with the business owners and employees, who he thinks may now be out of a job if the businesses cannot relocate.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393