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Hempstead restaurant comes to the rescue

Restaurant owner Chris Stasi said he was in Riverhead when he saw news of the Hempstead apartment building fire on television Sunday evening.

There was footage from a helicopter flying over the scene and as the camera pulled back, Stasi said, he saw his place -- the Bedrock Bar & Grill.

The grill is closed Sundays. But Stasi, 25, of Westbury, had his manager, Matthew Walsh, 24, of East Meadow, open up as he headed to the scene.

The staff, including four kitchen employees, then served emergency meals to more than 50 displaced residents and dozens of firefighters Sunday night and later sent chicken and pizza to residents at a makeshift shelter set up at nearby Hempstead High School.

"The least I could do in this situation was help out my neighbors," Stasi said.

The Bedrock also allowed about two dozen residents to sleep overnight at the grill, then on Monday, according to American Red Cross of Greater New York spokesman Sam Kille, they sent coffee and bagels to the shelter to feed residents.

Kille said food supplied by the Bedrock was a welcome addition to food issued by the Red Cross and the work of the staff at Hempstead High, which he said cooked sausages and eggs for residents Monday.

"They did great, a great job," Kille said of the staff at the Bedrock. "They came to us right away, told us they were willing to help out, then delivered chicken and pizza for us last night . . . It was a good example of everybody pitching in, neighbors helping neighbors. It was just terrific."

Displaced residents agreed.

"They provided real relief and they have a heart and that shows," said Jovan Smith, 26, who was staying with a friend whose apartment was destroyed -- and ended up spending the night at the Bedrock.

Another resident who spent the night at the Bedrock, Ruby Barnes, 59, said her apartment is on the second floor -- the same floor where the fire began -- and said she was outside on her patio when she saw smoke and thought neighbors were having a barbecue.

Then, she said, she heard someone yell there was a fire.

"I didn't think it would be big like that," she said.

Barnes said Monday the halls were already awash in water firefighters had put on the flames when she and other residents evacuated.

"There was so much water as you walked out the door you had to hold onto everything," Barnes said, adding she still doesn't know if her apartment was one of those destroyed.

Johnny Geralds III, 54, who also spent the night at the Bedrock, said he had moved into his apartment at the Fulton Manor in January. He said he had dozed off in his fifth-floor apartment when he heard firefighters banging on his door -- telling him to evacuate.

Geralds said he was briefly allowed to return to his apartment at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday, grabbing medication, his cellphone and clothes.

"I'm grateful I have somewhere to go back to," he said of his unit, which was not destroyed in the fire.

Stasi and Walsh said Monday that as soon as they saw video of residents standing outside the burning building they knew what needed to be done.

"All these neighbors are my neighbors," Walsh said. "I came down here to give them a helping hand . . . Just to make sure they are safe and all right. That's what it's all about."

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