By Michael McDowell
A couple expecting a baby were among the people displaced when a four-alarm inferno tore through 229 West 101st Street, between Broadway and West End.
“We are hanging in there,” said Ana Fernandez, who believes her apartment may be uninhabitable for as long as a year.
“I’ll be due in June, hopefully early June. It’s right around the corner,” she told the West Side Rag, in an interview. Fernandez and her fiancee are currently staying with family and friends.
“We are basically looking for a place to live,” she said. “It’s just being patient, it’s a process. We lost all our furniture. We were actually starting to get ready, to prepare the baby’s room, when this occurred.” Fernandez did not have renter’s insurance.
Other residents whose apartments were destroyed include an elderly couple who have lived in the building for 50 years.
“Some people are in shelters, some are in New Jersey with relatives,” said Kerri Gawryn, who has organized a GoFundMe to raise money, and is asking neighbors and the community to chip in whatever they can to help those who lost their homes.
GoFundMe is an online fundraising platform, where individuals can set up pages to raise money for celebrations, or ask for aid when times are tough.
“I moved into the building, and I felt like I moved into a community—people were so friendly, helpful, and warm, and it’s been heartbreaking,” said Gawryn. “And you know, it’s just the luck of the draw. It could have been my apartment that burned.”
“The [building] looks like a bomb went off on the inside, all of the windows have been broken, there’s black soot and smoke all over the walls and the hallways, it’s horrifying,” Gawryn said.
“[Building management] is starting to clean it up, but it’s been slow because [FDNY] had to investigate what happened, so there are limits on what [can be done] until the investigation is completed.”
There were no fatalities, although according to Gawryn a cat perished in the fire.
An inquiry with the FDNY press office has not yet been returned.
The Red Cross was on the scene on the day of the fire, and provided temporary housing for five households, as well as debit cards with emergency funds to assist with emergency needs, according to spokesperson Michael de Vulpillieres.
“We were there pretty much all day,” de Vulpillieres said. “We offer emergency housing [to those impacted by disasters] for a few nights, usually for 2 to 3 nights, depending on the circumstances,” he explained.
“Longer term, our caseworkers will sit with displaced families, to find out any additional needs and provide referrals to other agencies. One of the main agencies we refer people to for longer-term housing is HPD,” he said, referring to the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Despite the calamity, Fernandez is optimistic and determined. “We’re keeping our hopes up,” she told the Rag. “Hopefully we’ll see something good come out of all of this. But it’s not easy.”
As of Tuesday evening, approximately $535 had been donated to the GoFundMe in support of those who lost their homes in the fire.