Today’s news:

Landlord of Top Drawer seeks rewiring after fire

An electrical fire at the Top Drawer gift shop on Bell Boulevard last week prompted the building’s owner to demand the replacement of what the firm contended is an antiquated and dangerous Con Edison power box underneath the store.

The Jan. 21 blaze started in the meter room under Top Drawer at 39-36 Bell Blvd., a Fire Department official on the scene said. The fire caused heavy damage to the store and filled the Papazzio restaurant next door with smoke.

The Fire Department had not yet determined the fire’s cause as of Tuesday afternoon.

In a letter to Con Edison dated Sunday, the Top Drawer building’s owner, Cromwell Associates, said the feeder box in the basement of the gift shop was the shared electricity connection for the building and two adjacent properties from a manhole on the street.

The adjacent buildings house the Okinawa and Il Vesuvio restaurants.

“This ancient, obsolete and long discredited concept of power distribution utilizing only one street conduit is termed a ‘loop system,’” the letter from the firm’s attorney said.

The system “carries the inherent danger that a massive short circuit or overload in any building tied to the loop can be reflected to the end box in the (Top Drawer building), thus causing another catastrophic failure,” the letter said.

Cromwell Associates maintained in the letter that the fire “found its genesis in Con Edison’s overloaded and water-soaked feeder cables.”

Con Edison could not be reached for comment.

Cromwell Associates said it was told by Con Edison a day after the blaze that the three properties connected to the single power box would instead receive individual power connections — only to hear later that the old system would be replaced with a similar one.

Walter Sobelman, owner of the two buildings north of Top Drawer, said, “I want direct service to both buildings. I don’t want fires. It could’ve been horrendous.”

Il Vesuvio owner Max Marmo agreed, saying he would feel safer “if each store had their own wiring system.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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