The fire begins in a former school that more recently housed a senior center, the Chen Dance Center and a number of community groups
Nearly a dozen people were hurt, most of them firefighters with minor injuries, after raging flames broke out at a historic building in Chinatown that has been home to a senior center and other nonprofits for decades.
Flames could be seen shooting out of the fourth and fifth floor windows of the New York City-owned building at 70 Mulberry St. around 8:40 p.m. About 145 FDNY firefighters worked to hose down the five-alarm blaze for hours before it started to subside, according to officials.
Firefighters worked through the night and were still trying to put out hotspots around the building early Friday. In a morning briefing, an FDNY spokesperson told reporters there are areas proving very difficult for firefighters to access and there’s “significant water damage throughout the building.”
Officials say a 59-year-old man who was rescued by firefighters suffered smoke inhalation but is expected to survive. Eight firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The bottom floor of the burned building is home to the Chinatown Senior Center and the second floor is a dance studio. Its top floors, where the fire started, are where a few nonprofit organizations are located and where historic documents are stored, according to Manhattan Community Board 3 member Karlin Chan.
“We have the Museum of Chinese in America archives (MOCA) there. So all the historical documents from this area, all the exhibits are actually stored in there, so hopefully the water damage doesn’t destroy it,” Chan tells .
MOCA relocated from Mulberry Street to 215 Centre St. in 2009, but it retained the previous gallery space “as an archival centre and serves as a research library open to anyone with a desire to learn or research Chinese American history,” according to the museum’s website.
The unfortunate incident comes just days before the Lunar New Year. NYC’s Chinatown holds one of the biggest new year celebrations in the country and it is expected to draw thousands of people to the area on Saturday.
The cause of the fire is being investigated by fire marshals.
Chen Dance Center owner HT Chen says he has been in the building for over 40 years. “This building is very important. It’s so unfortunate to have a fire. It’s very sad,” he said.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Mayor de Blasio said the building is a pillar to the Chinatown community.
” I know the neighborhood is in shock tonight. We’re going to help the community get through this,” he wrote.
The building has been around for decades and NYC Council Member Margaret Chin says she attended school there in 1963.
“It provides workforce development, cultural programs and a senior center. We will work to make sure vital services aren’t lost,” Chin said.