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Hudson View Fire Victim:'I'm not Going to Quit'

Residents from Hudson View Estates continue to question Peekskill officials about the apartment building fire and water main breaks that took place last month.

Nearly three weeks after a fire and a multiple water main breaks caused major disruptions along Lakeview Drive and Pemart Aveue, residents continued to search for answers during Monday’s Peekskill Common Council meeting.

 “I’m not going to quit until you guys help me,” said Alonzo Thompson, one of the people who lost their homes during the March 21 apartment building fire in Hudson View Estates complex. “I’m not. The city, somebody has got to help me for losing everything that we worked hard for.”

The fire displaced 14 families, according to officials from the American Red Cross. While many have been able to find new homes, others are still struggling to get back on their feet.

During the fire, a secondary water main broke in the area of Highland Avenue and Garfield Street while firefighters tried to draw water from a nearby hydrant.

Some residents maintain that main break caused firefighters to lose water during the fire. Mayor Mary Foster and fire Chief Robert Fiorio have said that the break caused a decrease in water pressure, but did not result in a complete loss of water.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Foster said the city is waiting for the findings of Westchester County fire investigators, along with information from the neighboring fire departments who assisted Peekskill. Once that information is submitted, Foster said she planned to create on comprehensive report on the incident.

Foster said it could take months before county fire investigators file their report.

But the fire isn’t the only thing residents seek answers to. City officials had to deal with at least three other water main breaks in the days following the fire.

Residents of Lakeview Drive, Pemart Avenue and other nearby roads were given boil water advisories by the Westchester County Department of Health until the situation was corrected.

 Foster said officials were still investigating the cause of the water system failure.

“We have asked for our fire department and our city engineer to provide back to the city Council a comprehensive report of what the service is to all of the high points in the city, how many continuous loops of water pipes versus dead end pipes that we have, where they think the vulnerabilities are for firefighting and what the recommendations are for us to address them.”

Foster also said that Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton has reached out to U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, for possible grants to help with water infrastructure and that the Council has reached out to state officials for possible grants.

Councilwoman Marybeth McGowan said the Council also wanted to look into the ways it communicates with residents during emergencies.

Jesus Encarnacion, a resident of Hudson View Estates who was affected by the disruption in water service, said he is disappointed by the Council’s response during the ordeal.

“Here you all are, as paid sworn officials of the city, and all you do is stare at people like their stupid…you make a lot of false statements to the news media, you lie to the people of this city,” Encarnacion said.

Thompson said his wife and three children are still seeking assistance in the aftermath of the fire. The Department of Social Services told him that he wasn’t eligible for food stamps because his family had too much money saved.

Thompson was also told that he isn’t eligible for Section 8.

“I’m not going to go empty my bank account because the fire department was fighting the fire with one hose,” Thompson said. “I don’t think that’s fair to me or my family or anyone else who was living up there.”

Foster said the city didn’t have a food stamps program, but has done other things to assist residents.

“Our Section 8 office did reach out to HUD to see if there was any way of getting emergency vouchers for people so they could get into apartments,” Foster said. “The senior citizens have been relocated to Peekskill Plaza. I know at least two have been relocated and so to the extent that there are things can be done, they have been done. Some of the tenants had renter’s insurance, some do not. And so everybody’s circumstances change in terms of how they recover.”

Leesther Brown, a Peekskill resident, still believes the city can do more to help remaining fire victims who haven’t found homes back on their feet.

“I don’t think these people are asking you to dig in your pocket and give them anything,” Brown said.

peekskillman April 18, 2013 at 06:55 PM
the only way to find out the truth of just what happened, when where and how is to subpoena all those who were at the fire, and make them tell what they know under oath. See if the double speak from City Hall will stop them then. Talk to the firemen as I did, and you will find out things like they DID lose water totally for a while, that one of the fire trucks didnt go to the proper hydrant, that the "protocol" for that area did not include Hudson View, but was meant for Peekskill Towers. You'll also find that the fire chief who spoke at the council meeting was NOT there for the whole fire, but got there after the building was falling down, and that he is relying on information from others to make his report. I cant imagine what all these families are going thru, my thoughts are with all of them. Hopefully they can band together and the truth will come out.
Teleman April 18, 2013 at 07:27 PM
I certainly understand and sympathize with those who lost everything in the fire. I think it would be prudent to wait for the issuance of the fire investigators report from the county. There seems to be a lot of focus on those who responded to put out the fire, but very little on who or what started it. I know that area well and was in the vicinity that day, and there was quite a bit of wind- that alone coupled with the vents and construction of that roof presented a very difficult situation. And i am not from the peekskill fd or affiliated with any politician- just my observations
shakemdown April 19, 2013 at 12:32 AM
i too was up there, in fact i'm a resident at hudson view and to be honest, the firefighters had the fire under control until they the lost of water,and the wind wasn't even a facture in this case,and by the way, how do you know that someone started the fire.
shakemdown April 19, 2013 at 12:42 AM
peekskillman: you are right, they should be subpoena, but the problem with that is that they will all plea the 5th and walk away laughing because the city will have to foot the bill. they need to be held accountable for the lying ,stealing and wasting the 10 million dollars that were in the budget when she started, and she can't explain where it went or what happed to it.
shakemdown April 19, 2013 at 01:08 AM
the firefighters had the fire under control until the lost of water, and the wind was not even a factor

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