BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
On Monday, the Alliance of South Asian American Labor (ASAAL) and the Jackson Heights Bangladesh Business Association (JBBA) held a conversation with victims who lost their businesses in last week’s fire in Jackson Heights.
The fire, which overtook the Brunson Building on 37th Avenue and 75th Street, broke out just before 6 p.m. last Monday and injured nine people, including one who was in serious condition due to smoke inhalation.
The FDNY declared that the fire was accidental.
Present at the meeting were several community and business leaders from the Jackson Heights area, as well as representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Public Advocate Letitia James.
Zakaria Masud, president of JBBA, was one of the meeting’s organizers. He said he hoped to gain as much attention as possible from City and State officials.
“We are the voters. We are tax paying citizens,” Masud said, “And we need help desperately.”
Kazi Islam, who is the president of a travel agency, was in the Brunson Building at the time of the fire.
“I left everything,” he said. “I couldn’t wait. I had to run.”
He said he lost years of documents and information vital to his business.
Deanna Foote, deputy director of community relations for Peralta, spoke about the resources available to victims of the fire. She said that interested parties should contact Peralta’s office for help navigating small business services and coordinating efforts with other government agencies.
Syed Rahman owns Mannan Supermarket and has been doing business in the area for 19 years. He expressed frustration with slow-moving and antagonistic government agencies. Anthony Lemma, who was representing Weprin at the meeting, responded with his optimism about the de Blasio administration.
“I think things are going to get a lot better for the small guy,” he said.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) will hold a meeting on Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, to connect those affected by the fire with small business services.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.