Early yesterday morning a massive fire started across the street from me in a Citibank branch. All day almost 200 firefighters tried to put it out by blasting it with water and foam (my street was covered with the latter — looked sort of like snow), but as of last night it was still smoldering. One firefighter told me that it was in the walls and, the space having become so unstable, they couldn’t get to it. The good news is that since it started a little after 5 AM no one was inside and, other than a handful who were treated for the smoke, no one was hurt. (As far as I know those of us living nearest to the fire are otherwise all fine other than smelling greatly of the smoke which was pretty intense.)
What makes me terribly sad is that while it looked as if the building next to the bank was okay, now hours and hours later, the water and smoke has evidently caused significant damage. My gloom is because the two businesses in that building are the sort more and more rare in this neighborhood. On the top is The Heights Bar and Grill, a simple burger and beer joint popular among the Columbia students and others in the neighborhood who preferred it to the more upscale places nearby. And on the ground floor is Samad’s Gourmet Deli, a venerable establishment that has been there for decades. They’ve a huge cat Poncho II, that terrorizes my dog, wonderful Middle Eastern treats, and caring and lovely employees. My father loved buying his coffee from their open bins and chatting with the owners. They’ve a bench outside where anyone can sit (even those who haven’t bought anything) and I’ve often worried about their survival what with Starbucks and other fancier nearby places. So far they have, but now? Will these two plain and important places be able to recover from this? I sure hope so.