Source: The Times Ledger
On April 22, 2004 The Times Ledger reported, "Members of a Sikh temple in Richmond Hill that burned down more than two years ago broke ground for a new house of worship last week, a day long awaited by the 10,000 people who had attended services weekly at the oldest gurdwara on the East Coast... A fire destroyed the temple, or gurdwara, after midnight on March 8, 2002, killing a 37-year-old male tourist from India and injuring seven others. Fire officials said the blaze began accidentally when gas from a leak on a nearby street drifted into the temple’s basement and was ignited by a pilot light. Before the fire, Richmond Hill’s Sikhs had been the targets of several bias attacks in the aftermath of Sept. 11 because members of their community dress in a way that reminded the uninformed of the Taliban, who supported al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. Some temple-goers still believe the fire was started deliberately... The Sikh Cultural Society, founded in 1965, converted a former Methodist church into their gurdwara in 1972. The temple was the oldest on the East Coast and the religious center for Sikhs throughout the tri-state area. In Queens alone there are eight gurdwaras and more than 50,000 Sikhs."