SUNNYSIDE GARDENS, QUEENS (PIX11) – Former New York City Councilman, Eric Gioia, held his 10-month-old baby son in his arms and told PIX11 he’s grateful his wife and three small children escaped an arson fire early Sunday morning.
“We heard a big boom and I opened up his door,” Gioia said, referring to the baby’s second floor bedroom. “And I just saw this huge, orange ball of fire. So I jumped on top of his crib, called my wife, and told her to get the girls.”
Gioia’s family vehicle, a 2007 Mercury Mariner, was enveloped in flames in the driveway on 49th Street, near 39th Avenue. Police say an arsonist deliberately set it on fire, before starting four trash fires within two blocks of the Gioia home.
Gioia’s father, who lives nearby, said, “They couldn’t get out. The flames were tremendous! They had to go out the back door.”
The burned out shell of the SUV has been moved from the sloped driveway, but black marks are left all over the pavement, and leaves turned black on the tree. The rubber garbage can was melted and the remnants of an airbag are in the tree.
Gioia, who left the City Council in 2011 and now works for Chase, told PIX11 he couldn’t think of anyone who would be out to get him.
Donato’s Restaurant, two blocks away on 51st Street, had some trash set on fire the same morning. One of the cafe’s surveillance cameras captured a person of interest walking away, a light-skinned man wearing a light-colored t- shirt.
The owner, Oswaldo Calle, said, “I don’t think this fire is against me or the restaurant. A crazy person was doing this.”
Meantime, Gioia’s seven-yea- old daughter, Amelia, quoted what her parents said after the scare: “They told me it’s more important my family being safe than the car.”