"I heard the commotion, I came outside, I saw the fire department - everything that was going on," said one neighbor named John.
It seemed like just a small fire quickly put out by fire crews - that is, until police arrived.
In the basement of the building, firefighters found a major grow operation. Police collected more than 10 pounds of marijuana. 65-year-old Albert Martinez, the building super and the only person who had access to the basement apartment is now facing charges.
"Wow, the old man - I can't believe it. I would give my life up right now to believe that's not true," says neighbor Jose Durecout.
The news is not what anyone who knew Martinez expected. Neighbors watched as evidence was brought out from the building - even what appears to be more marijuana.
"They had microwaves coming back and forth, back and forth into another cop car that was like a station wagon," Durecout added.
"My mother was telling me there was strange smells in the area," John said.
The apartment has been cleared by investigators, leaving behind neighbors who are appalled at what was happing right under their nose.
"Anybody could be doing something. People could be having people in these basement trapped and all that, and nobody knows nothing," says Durecout.
The building super will face charges of possession and intent to distribute marijuana.