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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

North Avenue merchants: We're back!

Following the complete boarding up of the burned out building...

...North Avenue was open to traffic by 5:00 PM.
Plainfield's North Avenue merchants heaved a collective sigh of relief Tuesday when the street was finally opened to traffic after being closed more than five  weeks following a suspicious December 17 fire that gutted an historic commercial building.

Part of the confusion has arisen from the fact that the owner of the building lives in California and communications have been somewhat garbled.

Merchants were finally told at a meeting with DPWUD Director Eric Jackson and Oscar Turk, head of Inspections, that the street could be opened once the burned-out building was boarded up.

Mike Ramos, whose mother's Ambateñita Bakery was displaced by the fire, quickly organized a crew, rented a Home Depot truck and had the building boarded up by mid-afternoon.

By five o'clock the police barricades were gone and half a dozen vehicles were parked in front of businesses.

The Hollywood Barber Shop was humming and lights were on in Mi Buenaventura as preparations were made to reopen the restaurant.

There has been no official word about the blaze, which Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig deemed 'highly suspicious' in remarks to the Council. Hellwig advised the Council that he had closed the street for safety reasons and stationed police on a 24/7 basis. (I have since been told that the cost to the taxpayers has been in excess of $16,000 per week. Hellwig said the City would go after the property owner for the city's costs.)

Merchants, however, have their own suspicions, noting that one restaurateur was never interviewed despite being present in their premises when the fire broke out.

And then there is the matter of pressure to sell out to a developer.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Alan Goldstein said...

There are two comments to your January 9th post about the fire that warrant interest.

An anonymous comment added just the other day points to some curious activity since the fire, and calls into question why a neighboring businessman had to take it upon himself to get the building boarded up.

Deborah Dowe's comment referring to burning downtown New Brunswick reminds me of the burning of Hoboken in the early 80s.

At a time of sky high interest rates, you could have had your choice of brownstones, all newly renovated and readily available. But larger apartment buildings burned, the tenants forced out, and within weeks the co-ops and condominium-for-sale signs were hanging from them. That was always a mystery to me.

Director Hellwig, who calls the fire "highly suspicious", should check the development angle to be safe.

Alan Goldstein said...

Forgot the link. Oops!

Anonymous said...

In response to Mr. Goldsteins comment... while the 4th St BBQ fire is very suspicious ie: lightning strike, (the rest was sold to a new owner who paid too much for it and when trying to sell it to get out, had a deal in place that fell through) Makes you wonder...
The North Ave building was mostly empty and was being negotiated for a possible sale. Not exactly the best time for lightning to strike if you get my drift.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the sale did not go through and the owner couldn't wait. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

It funny that in non of your comments about north ave you don't mention a new take over from a developer that is buying the buildings cheap and kicking the businesses in those area out investigating that .