A Helping Hand for Recent Fire Victims

Queens Chronicle - February 08, 2019

by Michael Gannon, Editor

It was 11 degrees on Thursday afternoon at the intersection of Baisley and Guy R.

Brewer boulevards.

But stepping off the corner into The Door restaurant, families recently displaced by fire found it as warm and inviting as a holiday dinner on a summer evening on a beach in Kingston.

Southeast Queens has seen numerous house fires in the last month.

Four blazes have killed a total of five people since Jan.

23, while others have forced people to flee with only the clothing they were wearing.

But police officers from the NYPD’s 113th Precinct and Christopher Roberts, owner of The Door, decided they did not want to just hand the survivors over to the Red Cross and city social service agencies and move on.

A dozen fire survivors were joined by civic and elected officials as Roberts treated them to a Jamaican-style feast — as in the original Jamaica.

“We just reached out,” said Det.

Tanya Duhaney of the 113th Precinct’s Community Affairs Office.

“We wanted to help.

” While the Chronicle could not reach restaurateur Roberts, sources said The Door picked up the entire tab.

Kathy Thimakis and Tracey Patterson and her three children were burned out of their apartments on 159th Street on January 7th.

Tanitza Ortiz and her family lost their home in a Jan.

19 fire in the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn that injured three people.

“I think they asked us because my children go to school in Queens,” Ortiz said.

Duhaney said others were invited, including a survivor of one of the fatal fires.

“She said she just couldn’t come,” Duhaney said.

Thimakis and the Patterson family have been encountering challenges when it comes to getting relocated and just trying to get their lives back to normal.

But the outpouring of goodwill and invitation to dinner were a pleasant surprise.

Thimakis said it was a welcome change from her hopping back and forth between friends and family in Queens and on Staten Island, which she has been doing since the fire.

“I was overwhelmed,” Thimakis said.

“I’m still living day-to-day.

” And she said having the event at The Door made the occasion extra special, as she has dined there numerous times in the past.

“I’m half-Jamaican,” she explained with a smile that has been tough to come by in recent days, but never seemed to leave her face on Thursday.

Inspector Jerry O’Sullivan, commanding officer of the 113th, dropped by in the middle of the celebration with a bag of toys worthy of St.

Nicholas donated by his officers for the children.

If O’Sullivan was trying to conceal his pride in the officers under his command, he failed singularly.

“This was all organized by Community Affairs,” the CO said.

The Reverand William Armstead, pastor of the First Church of God in Christ just down the street on Baisley Boulevard, came to say the blessing over the meal and to give thanks for those who survived.

Armstead, too, smiled, not skipping a beat when one of the babies in the crowd started to cry.

“I have this every Sunday,” he said.

Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12, were also among those who dropped by.

Neither was surprised by the outpouring that has largely been orchestrated by the 113th Precinct.

“This is a caring community,” Reddick said.

Patterson said she was grateful for the concern shown by the community.

Even with a sumptuous meal before them, her youngest, 2, had his radar directing his attention straight to the cookies just out of arm’s reach in the center of the table.

Her struggle, she said, is not yet over.

Patterson two weeks ago told the Chronicle that she does have a job and can afford rent, but would have difficulty coming up with a security deposit and other advance payments most landlords require with new tenants.

First the Red Cross then the city had been keeping her family in a hotel.

“We have one day left in a hotel,” she said.

“What happens then? Can they only help you if you’re in the shelter system?” Complicating matters further still is that her 16-year-old son is autistic and attends school in Queens.

Patterson said she did not know how her son would manage if they were relocated even temporarily to the Bronx, Manhattan or distant parts of Brooklyn.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development told the Chronicle back in January that placing a family largely is reliant on where there is space available.