Aug. 12, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A fundraiser for a group of Sunnyside businesses that were damaged in a fire Thursday morning has raised close to $20,000 in less than 10 hours.
The fundraiser was started by Sunnyside Shines BID just hours after a four-alarm fire tore through a one-story building at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 44th Street.
The flames started inside a Japanese market, Taiyo Foods, at around 7:20 a.m. and quickly spread to four other businesses — skincare salon Yeserith Esthetics and restaurants Mad for Chicken, Bajeko Sekuwa and Mad Cafe — housed in the same building.
More than 200 fire and EMS personnel responded to the scene. Three firefighters sustained minor injuries and no civilians were hurt, the FDNY said.
It’s not yet clear the extent of the damage to each business. Fire marshals are investigating what caused the spark.
Sunnyside Shines said the fire was reminiscent of a massive blaze that decimated several small businesses two blocks away in December 2018. The business improvement district reactivated the relief program it created in the wake of that fire to help the business owners and employees affected by Thursday’s fire.
“When we created the Business Community Disaster Program in 2018, it was to ensure that in the case of future crises in our small business community, we would stand ready to provide an organized, well-managed response to events,” Executive Director at Sunnyside Shines Jaime-Faye Bean said.
“We are incredibly saddened to have to activate it today, but are grateful for the support of this amazing community and the trust they have placed in us.”
All of the proceeds from the GoFundMe will be disbursed to workers who lose income due to the fire.
Local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said he could smell the smoke at his home on 46th Street this morning, and then heard the sirens and police helicopter soon after.
He said he was glad to see the community stepping up so quickly.
“It’s important that we unite as a community behind these businesses, and supporting the GoFundMe is one way to do it,” Van Bramer said.
Though he was glad no one died in the blaze, he said the fire was a tragedy for the businesses.
“It’s always painful when small businesses in our community are destroyed,” Van Bramer said. “Our community loves the people who work at these places, whether it be the owners or staff.”
Sunnyside Shines is also working to compile a list of local job openings for those workers seeking assistance with job placement, and is in coordination with the New York City Department of Small Business Services Emergency Response Unit on ensuring all of the affected merchants have support with business recovery.
Julie Won, a Democrat who is likely to replace Van Bramer in the City Council, express her best wishes to the business owners and staff.