HARLEM — A massive fire destroyed a Manhattanville supermarket and laundromat Sunday night, leaving over 50 people unemployed and locals wondering where they were going shop for food.
"There was black smoke, huge flames, a lot of sirens and the sound of little explosions," said Belinda Arias, 18, a cashier at the Associated Supermarket at 1440 Amsterdam Ave., at 131st Street, who also lives in the West Harlem neighborhood and watched the fire.
"I knew we are all out of jobs," she said.
Fire Department officials say the three-alarm blaze started at about 7:30 p.m. and took almost 140 firefighters and three hours to get under control. The fire sent employees who were in the process of closing the store for the night scattering out of the one story building where the roof and a wall collapsed.
The fire was not deemed to be suspicious, but a cause has yet to be determined, fire officials said. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
Smoke still rose from the collapsed structure Monday morning as firefighters doused the building with water and residents stood outside in disbelief.
"The community needs this supermarket," said Miriam Pizarro, a resident of the Manhattanville Houses who packed groceries at the store for 13 years and also shopped there. "This was a community supermarket. It helped the poor because they had good sales."
Javier Gonzalez, a dairy manager at the supermarket for six years, also stood across the street with his hands in his pocket looking stunned.
"Now I have to find another job," he said. "When you have a family you have to move fast."
According to Department of Building records, the building had structural stability issues. In February building owner Lefkas Realty of Long Island City was cited for cracks in the building and bowed walls. A full evacuate order was issued.
In May, another full vacate order was issued before it was withdrawn with orders to allow the supermarket to continue to operate.
Lefkas Realty could not be reached for comment.
Angella Berry, a nanny who lives on nearby Convent Avenue, said she has been shopping at the supermarket for 20 years. She came outside last night to look at the blaze after her brother called her to tell her what was happening.
"I've gotten everything I need from here for so many years," she said. "Now I don't know where I'll go."