Dec. 7, 2015 By Laura A. Shepard
Construction is almost finished at the Bruson Building more than year and a half after it was ravaged by fire.
Most of the scaffolding at 74-09 37th Ave. has been removed and owner Craig Bruno said he hopes to wrap up by New Year’s.
The rebuilding took about a year and cost “a lot,” Bruno said. His grandfather built the original building in 1952.
Bruno confirmed that Habib Bank, which occupied the Bruson Building before the fire, will reopen a branch in the building in a few months. One other tenant, a restaurant, is in the process of negotiating a lease, he said.
Most of the Bruson Building’s former tenants relocated and signed leases elsewhere after the fire, so Bruno doubts that many will move back.
Frank Buonagurio, the owner of Frank’s Pharmacy, said he’ll never forget the date: April 21, 2014, when the five-alarm fire broke out at 6 p.m. After the flames blazed for hours, only the shell of the building remained.
“We were out of business,” Buonagurio said, but he continued filling prescriptions for seniors at a neighboring pharmacy until he was able to reopen on the corner of 37th Avenue and 77th Street six months later.
Buonagurio used his insurance money from the fire to build the new store, so he does not plan on moving back to the Bruson Building.
The new location is across the street from a school and working out well, but Buonagurio noted that he has lost some customers, who say they don’t want to walk an extra block.
“You have to know what you’re doing,” Buonagurio said, as the rents are high in the neighborhood and “not a lot of businesses can make a lot of money.” The pharmacy is a “good, independent retail business, though.”
Armondo’s Italian Restaurant moved to 73-16 Northern Blvd., which was formerly Trieste.
Several Queens Community House programs, including Immigration and ESL, moved to QCH’s other location at 108-25 62nd Drive in Forest Hills, while the Queens Center for Gay Seniors meets at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center.