Great Neck Plaza buildings evacuated for fire, carbon monoxide

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20 Chapel Place was evacuated on Wednesday night for a fire that broke out on the third floor. (Photo from Google Maps)
20 Chapel Place was evacuated on Wednesday night for a fire that broke out on the third floor. (Photo from Google Maps)

Two buildings in Great Neck Plaza had to be evacuated in separate incidents on Wednesday, with potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide in a bagel store and a fire breaking out on the third floor of an apartment complex.

According to Nassau County police, two public oriented police officers were visiting Best Bagels at 40 Middle Neck Road at 11:51 a.m. Wednesday morning when one of their carbon monoxide detectors then detected a reading.

This led to the officers evacuating five patrons and five employees, police said, and Vigilant Fire Company being called to assist.

The source was determined to be a faulty boiler, police said, and the business will stay closed until the condition is corrected.

Vigilant Fire Chief Joshua Charry said the initial readings were 130 parts of carbon monoxide per million. But on further investigation, he said, they found levels as high as 600 parts per million.

At the original ratings, Charry said, people might begin to not feel well, be drowsy and nauseous after several hours. With a reading of 600, however, it would take much less time because of how carbon monoxide works to displace oxygen on the cells.

“A lot of it has to do with the time of exposure, how much time you spend in an environment with an elevated level of carbon monoxide,” Charry said.

Charry said the readings were “reminiscent” of a call in January 2011 – eight years ago – at another business on Middle Neck Road, where they were called in to respond to a seizure but found carbon monoxide levels of 625 parts per million in the kitchen.

“No wonder the people who was having a seizure was having a seizure,” Charry said.

But in the Best Bagel incident, Charry said, there were no hospitalizations or anybody hurt.

Less than nine hours later, a fire broke out at an apartment complex at 20 Chapel Place at 8:34 p.m., police said.

Charry said the fire began at apartment 3C on the third floor’s North Wing and that, “out of an abundance of caution,” the entire building was exacuated.

The apartment was not occupied at the time because the residents had just finished up a renovation there, Charry said, and there were “absolutely no injuries” as a result of the fire.

“It wasn’t a lot of fire,” Charry said. “It was a good amount of smoke.”

Charry said that Alert Fire Company and Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department were on scene to assist, while Plandome Fire Department and Williston Park Fire Department were on standby to cover the area.

Nassau County’s fire marshal and office of emergency management were also on scene, he said.

Police said that the Red Cross responded to the scene and arranged housing for seven families, totaling 10 adults and one child who were displaced because of the fire.

Michael Sweeney, the commissioner of public services for Great Neck Plaza, said that further investigation found that the cause of the fire appears to have been a spontaneous combustion of construction materials left in a closet.

“Everyone but five apartments were allowed to be reoccupied,” Sweeney said. “They just had maybe some carpet water or something of that – nothing that would preclude the from moving back into their homes.”

Sweeney said those five apartments had water infiltrate electrical panels, meaning they had to be taken out of service and dried out. This means that there would be no electricity and people could not move back into their apartments yet, he said.

“The management company is well aware and well on top of all the issues at hand,” Sweeney said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Friday, Jan. 11, to include information from Michael Sweeney about the cause of the fire and how many apartments were affected by the incident.

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