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Fire to keep seniors out of Halfmoon complex until September

Thursday, August 9, 2012
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— Repairing an electrical room destroyed by a July 20 fire at the Bishop Hubbard Senior Apartments will take longer than previously expected, officials said Wednesday.

An electrical contractor estimates it will take until Sept. 4 to replace all the burned equipment and restore electricity to the building to allow residents in 49 apartments to move back in, said Kenneth Goldfarb, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, which sponsors the apartment building.

The Red Cross originally said it would take about a week to restore electricity to the building.

The fire started in an electrical distribution box in a utility room on the second floor of the L-shaped building.

“That whole room was a complete disaster and that has to be replaced,” Goldfarb said.

Other repairs also need to be made, including floor repairs from water damage and roof repairs where firefighters broke a hole to allow smoke to escape.

All 53 senior residents were moved out of the building after the fire because without electricity the town won’t allow the building to be occupied, Goldfarb said.

DePaul Housing Management, which manages the diocese’s apartment complexes, has made phone calls to the residents letting them know about the estimated occupancy date and sent letters to them too.

“There are people who will be on-site on a regular basis to answer any questions,” Goldfarb said.

After the fire, some of the residents moved in with family or friends, and those who needed housing were split between a few local hotels. At least six are living at Cocca’s hotel on Route 9 in Latham.

Though they say their needs are being taken care of and everyone at the hotel is nice, the seniors are eager to get back home and are disappointed that it’s taking so long.

“I just wish somebody would get it moving,” said Toni Carroll, 75. “How could you displace so many people? You’d think that would be the priority, of getting us back to our house.”

Some of the residents have health problems that make it difficult to get around. Carroll has trouble walking and spends most of the time sitting in bed watching TV.

“It’s very lonely,” she said. “I just wish I had my lounge chair. I’d put it outside the door and sit in the sun.”

Mary Ferraro, 96, spends her days that way, too, relying on her husband to drive to get medicine and whatever else they need.

“I want to help, and I can’t help,” she said.

Most of the residents either have renter’s insurance or make so little money that the Saratoga County Department of Social Services is paying for their hotel stay. The Ferraros fall in the middle; they make too much to qualify for public assistance and didn’t have renter’s insurance. Even though the Red Cross paid for the first three nights in the hotel, the couple will be on the hook for about $2,700 by the time they leave the hotel, far more than the $459 they pay in rent each month at Bishop Hubbard.

Rent at the senior complex varies depending on the resident’s income.

“If we were both well, we could probably go someplace, like on vacation,” John Ferraro said.

The apartment complex is paying $20 a day for the residents’ meals while they’re in hotels, and those at Cocca’s can get delivery from a nearby restaurant.

No one was injured in the July 20 fire, which happened just before 4 a.m. Residents were evacuated and taken to the Halfmoon Senior Center on Lower Newtown Road. Firefighters retrieved medications from the seniors’ apartments, and the residents have been allowed inside to retrieve items since then.

 
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