By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Diners and employees evacuated the Park Plaza Diner just before 7 p.m. Saturday night, as a fire broke out on the roof of the restaurant at Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights.
The one-story diner, just across the park from the Federal Courthouse, is a frequent lunchtime destination for lawyers and their clients, along with reporters and news crews covering trial proceedings.
Enid Ford and her husband Gabe — relaxing on their nearby third-floor balcony — were among the first to spot the flames shooting from the roof of the restaurant. Their shouts drew the attention of passersby, who ran into the eatery and sounded the alarm.
According to FDNY, “multiple calls” poured in to 911, starting at 6:53 p.m. A Fire Department spokesperson told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that the first units arrived at the scene at 6:55 p.m. Firefighters had the blaze under control in a half hour.
Park Plaza was founded in 1981 by Peter Likourentzos and has been operated by the same family ever since, with sons, Nick, Dimitri and Harry currently in charge. Dimitri told a group of disappointed patrons on Sunday that a design problem with the fire suppressant system was partially to blame, allowing flames to shoot through the hood all the way to the roof.
“The worst part is the loss of wages for our employees," he said, adding he expected the restaurant would reopen “in four or five days.” Patrons should call 718-596-5900 to hear recorded updates.
The diner draws a mix of clients — families who appreciate the large booths and plentiful high chairs, college students who drop in after late weekend dates, seniors who linger over coffee and civic groups who meet in the back dining room (currently under renovation).
But Park Plaza holds a special place in the hearts of attorneys and their sometimes-infamous clients. Peter, Gene and John Gotti, "Mafia cops" Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, Vincent “the Chin” Gigante and their alert retinues have all chowed down on the diner’s burgers, sandwiches and fries.
When a relative of a murder victim winds up in a booth near the alleged murderer, however, the diner can get uncomfortably hot. The sister of victim James Hydell reportedly ran into alleged Mafia cop Louis Eppolito at the diner during a trial lunch break. As he passed Hydell's table, the New York Daily News reports she looked him in the eye and said: "How does it feel to fry slowly?"