2 years after massive fire left 250 families homeless, Avalon Bay Edgewater works to rebuild
Work has only just begun to rebuild the Avalon Bay Edgewater apartments, two years after a massive fire destroyed the building and 250 families without a home.
The smoke and flames from that fire on Jan. 21, 2015 were so large and intense, that they were able to be seen not just from New York City, but also from outer space.
"It wasn't 10 homes, 20 homes. It was 250 families that were burned out and virtually lost everything," says Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland.
Former Avalon Edgewater resident Carla Cavellucci-Landa spoke to News 12 New Jersey on the eve of the second anniversary. She wore the coat and boots she was wearing the day of the fire, her only belongings to make it out.
"I saw red, the building on fire and I started crying," she says, and adds that the sights and sounds of that night have haunted her. "I was like a ghost visiting the apartment. The whole night, these images came to my mind."
The fire site stayed empty for nearly two years before work to rebuild began. Mayor McPartland says this time Avalon is adding sprinklers in the walls and ceilings as well as masonry fire walls.
"It's a cost to the builder of course but I think it's a cost that's needed because we don't want to have this happen again," the mayor says.
Cavellucci-Landa says the rebuilding angers her because she feels Avalon has not taken care of her and other former residents. She's part of a large group that's suing the developer.
"Be fair. I lost a lot of things that don't have price but I lost a lot of things that have something," she says. "So if I lost my TV, I want a TV. Not part of a TV."
Mayor McPartland says he believes all work may be complete within the year and then they'll be ready to take in new tenants.
No one was hurt in the fire, which was caused by maintenance crews doing work. A state bill was introduced to prevent all construction of lightweight wood-framed buildings for multi-unit housing after this fire, but it hasn't gained much traction. The mayor hopes the next governor may change that.