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Acclaimed Furniture Designer Dies in South Jamaica Blaze

By  Aidan Gardiner and Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 20, 2013 8:10am | Updated on August 21, 2013 8:48am

 Charles Pollock died when a fire engulfed the basement of a 157th Street home, the FDNY said.
Noted Furniture Designer Dies in Fire
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NEW YORK CITY — Renowned furniture designer Charles Pollock died Tuesday morning when a fire broke out in the basement of a South Jamaica home where he lived and had his studio, fire and police officials said.

The blaze started inside 115-59 157th St. about 7 a.m., according to the FDNY.

Although neighbors rushed in to try to save Pollock, who used a wheelchair, he was pronounced dead at the scene, the New York Post reported.

Pollock, 83, born in Philadelphia in 1930, graduated from the School of Art and Design at Pratt.

In 1963, he introduced his Pollock Executive Chair, which — according to his biography on the Bernhardt Design website — became one of the best-selling office chairs in history. The original Pollock chair is still produced by Knoll.

Over the years, Pollock worked for Donald Deskey, the designer of the interiors for Radio City Music Hall. He also worked for industrial designer George Nelson.

In the past three decades, Pollock, who had once lived on the Upper West Side, produced very little, until Jerry Helling, president of Bernhardt Design, sought Pollock out and worked with him for the last three years.

"He had a significant contribution in the mid '60s with the creation of his Pollock Executive Chair," said Helling. "It became a ubiquitous chair for many many years, probably until the late '90s."

Last year, Pollock introduced a new lounge chair, part of his new collection, CP Lounge, which was commissioned by Bernhardt Design.

"He had a great sense of humor — he was so funny," Helling said. "He was very creative and he loved to work."

Pollock moved to South Jamaica about 18 months ago, Helling said.

About 60 firefighters responded to Tuesday's fire and brought the blaze under control about 37 minutes later, the FDNY said.

Firefighters searched the two stories above the basement, but did not find any other people inside, the spokeswoman said.

Authorities said the fire did not appear to be suspicious.