Police have added two more fires to the series of arsons under investigation in Forest Hills, Queens. Seven fires have been started in empty homes under construction or renovation—five of them in an area that's home to the Bukharan Jewish community. The NYPD hasn't classified them as hate crimes, which is upsetting some residents. One said, "If seven Jewish homes had been burned in France within a month, there would be much more of an uproar."
Early Sunday morning, a fire was set for the second time at 112-35 69 Road; later in the evening, the police added two more incidents (listed as #6 and #7):
Incident #1 - At approximately 1930 hours on Sunday, November 8, 2015 at 68-60 112 Street.
Incident #2 - At approximately 2210 hours on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 112-35 69 Road.
Incident #3 - At approximately 1830 hours on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 at 108-43 66 Avenue.
Incident #4 - At approximately 2312 hours on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 108-43 67 Drive.
Incident #5 - At approximately 0018 hours on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 112-35 69 Road.
Incident #6 - At approximately 2227 hours on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 70-35 113 Street.
Incident #7 - At approximately 2000 hours on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at 108-13 67 Road.
The NY Times wrote about the extravagant homes being built by Bukharan Jews in 2008, "There, Bukharians have been tearing down the neighborhood’s sedate Tudor, Georgian and Cape Cod-style homes, paving over lawns and erecting white-brick edifices that borrow from old Europe, with sweeping balustrades, stone lions bracketing regal double doorways, chateau-style dormers and pitched roofs, Romanesque and Greek columns and ornate wrought-iron balconies accented with gold leaf that glints in the sun."
Rafael Nektalov, the editor of The Bukharian Times, told the NY Times, "Our people, they’re hardworking, hard-building. We want to have a beautiful life in beautiful buildings."
The Bukharian Jewish Center is offering a $50,000 reward to find the arsonist, and the NYPD is offering a $2,500 reward. Aron Borukhov told the Times-Ledger "that cops [should] put a patrol at every construction site and 360-degree-view cameras at every intersection... He explained that because there is a permit posted at construction sites showing who the owner is, the arsonist knows who owns the houses." He pointed out, "These fires are so big they are affecting houses on both sides. It’s not just construction sites that are being burned. It is a very dangerous situation.”
Police released video of the suspect, seen at the site of incident #4:
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers' website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.