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Arsonist Torches Former Councilman's SUV in Sunnyside, Cops Say

By  Aidan Gardiner and Jeanmarie Evelly | August 19, 2013 7:57am | Updated on August 19, 2013 12:54pm

Sunnyside Arson Suspect
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SUNNYSIDE — An arsonist lit up parts of Sunnyside Sunday morning, starting several trash fires and torching an SUV that belonged to a former city councilman, cops said.

Police say the first blaze started around 5 a.m., when the man set fire to a 2007 Mercury Mariner belonging to former Queens pol Eric Gioia, which had been parked near 49th Street and 39th Avenue.

The suspect then went on to light several trash fires nearby along 39th Avenue, according to the NYPD.

Gioia, who represented Queens' 26th District until 2009, said he was awoken early Sunday morning by a "big thump," and went to check on his young children, who were still asleep.

When he peeked into his son's room, he noticed an enormous fire raging right outside the house.

"It was like a bright orange fireball outside of his window," he said. "We didn’t even know our car was on fire — you couldn’t even tell it was a car on fire."

He said a tree near his house also caught fire, but thankfully did not spread to his home.

"This could have been far worse," Gioia said.

There did not appear to be any injuries as a result of the fires, according to police. The investigation is ongoing.

Gioia said he has no reason to believe he was personally targeted.

"I don’t know of any reason why anyone would want to harm me or my family," he said.

Surveillance footage released by police shows the suspect wearing dark pants and shoes with a lightly colored T-shirt.

Gioia said he is asking anyone in the neighborhood who has any information about the incident to come forward.

"The police are investigating and hopefully they’ll get to the bottom of it very quickly," he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).