Chair designer Pollock, 83, died in illegal subdivision fire: FDNY

A fatal fire in South Jamaica that took the life of designer Charles Pollock began with a cooking accident, a spokesman for the Fire Department said. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The South Jamaica home where a famed chair designer died during a fire last week had been illegally subdivided into four apartments, a spokeswoman for the city Buildings Department said.

The house, which had been OK’d as a two-family residence, was also issued violations for work without permits to create illegal apartments, plumbing and electrical work performed without a permit, defective or exposed electrical wiring and an illegal gas stove in the cellar, the spokeswoman said.

Three families had been living in separate apartments alongside that of 83-year-old Charles Pollock, residents said, and the tenants can no longer stay at the house on 157th Street near 115th Avenue until a vacate order issued by the DOB is lifted, the agency said. In addition, the property was also cited for failure to maintain a detached garage, the spokeswoman said.

“It is illegal for anyone to occupy the building while the vacate order is in effect. But the department will work with the property owner to make sure tenants can retrieve essential belongings,” Buildings spokeswoman Gloria Chin said in an e-mail.

A spokesman for the city Fire Department said Wednesday that the fatal blaze Aug. 20 stemmed from a cooking accident in Pollock’s apartment, and the department issued several fire safety tips for seniors, such as not wearing loose clothing around burners.

Pollock’s neighbors said when they opened the door to his studio to check on him, they were met with a wall of black smoke and a foot and a half of flames. They raced outside to call emergency responders, who later found the elderly designer dead inside.

A native of the Detroit area, Pollock studied at the School of Art and Design at the Pratt Institute.

In 1963, he unveiled the Pollock Executive Chair, which uses rolling wheels, for the Knoll company, which started producing the item in 1965 and continues to churn out the chair. Its design includes tufted upholstery and an aluminum band around the edges.

His former partner, Constance Smith, said the piece of furniture was probably the best-selling chair of all time.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4589.

Posted 12:00 am, August 30, 2013
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Reader feedback

Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
No surprise here. Department of Buildings does not follow up well with complaints and they take forever to remedy a situation. Two years ago I made two complaints in regards to a broken sidewalk in front of an empty lot, to this day it is still in that condition. Our extremely do nothing poor leaders of Jamaica do not help one bit. Not only is NYC broken and Queens a mess, but Jamaica, well it is seeming more and more hopeless as time goes on.
Aug. 30, 2013, 7:54 pm

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