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Arson likely in Brighton Beach

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The fires that are reducing a string of vacant Brighton Beach homes into piles of charred wood and ash are almost undoubtedly the work of arson. That’s according to City Councilmember Mike Nelson, who represents the 48th District and has been in contact with Fire Department investigators. “The investigations are at a very sensitive stage,” Nelson told The Bay News this week. “It certainly appears that it’s an arson/insurance situation.” The neighborhood suffered approximately 17 fires in 2007, according to officials. Two more were recorded this month. The latest fire happened at 27 Brighton 4th Walk at approximately 8 a.m. on January 23. Firefighters responded with 12 units comprising about 60 smoke eaters to battle the flames which broke out on the first floor of the modest structure located between Brighton 4th and Brighton 5th streets. The blaze was brought under control about 25 minutes later. No injuries were reported. Officials described the structure as being in “poor condition” before the fire. The cause of the blaze – like the rest – is still under investigation. Special investigative units have been assigned to try and determine what exactly is happening to so many vacant buildings in Brighton Beach. “They’re strongly looking into it,” Nelson said of those efforts. “They know it’s obviously a serious situation here.” Four of the last five Brighton Beach fires the Bay News reported on happened within two blocks of each other. Three firefighters were injured fighting an all-hands blaze at 2944 Brighton 5th Street on November 12. Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal said that all in the neighborhood are “concerned.” Local resident Judd Fischler says that properties immediately adjacent to at least one of the burned houses have recently been boarded up. “But I guess that was the point,” he said. “It’s getting ridiculous around here. The district attorney should get involved in this. It’s gone too far down the road. There’s something screwy going on.” While concerning, State Senator Carl Kruger state said at this point he did not want to speculate on the possible origin of the fires. “It reminds me of the boardwalk fires,” he said. “Ultimately we find that it’s homeless [causing them]. The state senator representing the 27th District counseled calm and allowing investigators ample opportunity to complete their probe. “There’s no need to panic,” he said. “Homeowners should keep their lights on and be aware of their surroundings and if they see something, say something. Report anything suspicious.” The fires have brought attention to Brighton Beach’s continuing search for the kind of contextual zoning many feel is necessary to offset the onslaught of multiple-dwelling condominiums. Nelson is anticipating an update on the Department of City Planning’s efforts to address the issue of Brighton Beach rezoning soon.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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