Big blaze on historic Brighton Beach boardwalk leaves residents, businesses calling for more help for homeless

BRIGHTON BEACH, Brooklyn -- Residents in Brighton Beach are calling for officers to more strongly police homeless residents in this neighborhood, and for the city to provide more homeless services after a fire destroyed the exterior of a popular restaurant on the landmarked boardwalk here.

Fire inspectors concluded that trash underneath the boardwalk caught fire and spread. Many local residents say that homeless men who sleep under the boardwalk caused the fire.

It broke out around 9:45 p.m. on Sunday night, and quickly spread upward and outward, engulfing the patio of Tatiana, a beachside restaurant and cabaret that's right on the boardwalk.

The club's owner, Lenny Bender, was on scene Monday afternoon to assess the damage and to try and clean up.

"Nothing difficult to fix," he assured PIX11 News.

He said that the presence of homeless men under the boardwalk overnight was the origin of the fire that took more than 100 firefighters to put out. Regarding the homeless men in the area, Bender said, "They smoke weed, they drink, they make open flame[s]."

Fire inspectors concluded that a smoldering cigarette flicked onto a mattress was the cause of the fire.

The massive response by the FDNY prevented the fire from spreading to the interior of the restaurant, or to the apartment building to which the restaurant is attached. There were no serious injuries.

The containment of the blaze, said Bender, will allow him to quickly recover from the damage. When asked how soon he might be able to reopen his restaurant and cabaret, including the now-burnt-out patio, Bender said, "A couple of weeks."

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