The smoke may have dissipated, but the fire that brought Main Street to a halt Thursday will have lasting effects for this busy corridor in the months and possibly years ahead.
No one knows this better than North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who was on hand as fire crews worked feverishly to put down the blaze in the 87-year-old Fleming building and again after 11 p.m. to inspect the damage.
“We have a number of folks engaged and helping any which way that we can,” said Kaiman, who ticked off a number of challenges the Town faces in restoring normalcy to this commuter hub across from the Long Island Rail Road station.
Public safety, housing displaced families, cleanup and the stability of the building are first and foremost, Kaiman said.
“Our priority is public safety at this stage,” the supervisor said. “We want to make sure it’s structurally sound. We’ve required the owner close off the building. We have our personnel in there. Our building inspector was there until well after midnight.”
Thursday's fire at 1 Herbert Avenue, where it intersects with Main Street, in Port Washington left families homeless and three businesses closed.
Nassau County Police Detectives said roofing contractors using a propane torch ignited the fire.
Town inspectors, engineers and the building's owner will decide if the building is stable or if a portion or all of the historic structure must come down.
Crews were spotted on the scene Friday, cleaning up debris, and boarding up windows. Port Washington Police had the section cordoned off. Closed for business are Fusion Wireless, Restaurant Yamaguchi and Steve's Barber Shop.
"It may take a while for the three commercial tenants in the building to recover," said Roy Smitheimer, with the Town of North Hempstead Business and Tourism Development Corporation. "It will ultimately depend on the decision of both the Nassau County Fire Marshal's office working with the Town's Building Department as to the structural integrity of the building."
Kaiman echoed that sentiment, saying the future viability of the property is important to both Port Washington residents and the Town. “The longer term picture is this is Main Street,” Kaiman said. “This was a 87-year-old building. It was a beautiful building. It added to the character of the area. We need to figure out what they are going to do to restore that building and see how quickly they can get that done.”