Business owners deal with fire's aftermath in Queens

Sent in by Bill

February 14, 2010 6:34:10 PM PST
A grim reality set in for small business owners devastated by Saturday's four-alarm fire on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights. Nearly a dozen businesses were destroyed. "It's scary. You can't believe what fire can do," said Ilona Pozniakie. "Everything goes away."

Jose Goncalves and his wife owned a beauty salon. Like many other owners, they had invested a good chunk of their life savings in the business.

"For a lot of people here it's not only their jobs, but their livelihoods," he said.

And there is yet another tough pill to swallow -- the Buildings Department says the entire structure will have to be demolished because the fire caused so much damage.

Alex Chin owns the dry cleaners in the adjoining building, but has to wait to get back in. He said that every day he can't operate will cost him thousands of dollars.

Officials say the fire started in a furniture store and quickly spread to other businesses. Some of them have around for more than 50 years, and residents considered them an integral part of the Jackson Heights community.

"This neighborhood is amazing, we really do love each other," said neighborhood resident Bethany Wild. "Jackson Hearts -- that's my new nickname for this place."