While we recently posted information on the devastating fire at 222 Lake Avenue on our social media, we have not fully addressed the situation in this blog. What follows is our account of what has transpired in the last several days.
On Monday, January 30, at 4:00 AM, a 4-alarm fire broke out on the third floor of 222 Lake Avenue, Yonkers, NY which is where our workshop is located. Eighty firefighters from 18 companies battled the fire. The fire, which completely destroyed the third and fourth floors in the northwest side of the building, burned for several hours. Gratefully, no deaths or major injuries were reported, although some firefighters were treated for minor injuries.
Our shop, located on the ground floor, had no direct fire damage, but we have plenty of water damage, which can be just as harmful. Trouble comes in threes and we have not been spared - the building was hit with 1200 gallons a minute of water for several hours, all of which rained down on the lower floors.
On Tuesday we were briefly escorted into our workshop by the Yonkers Fire Department. It was dark, cold and water was dripping from everywhere. At that point there was about four inches of water in the shop. In our shock, we grabbed nothing to take with us. All we remember doing was picking up what we could from the floor and setting it on higher ground. We were totally disoriented. The fire department could not say when we'd be able to get in to start cleaning up. Needless to say we were absolutely dismayed. Outside the building were a whole slew of people - other tenants, police, firefighters, fire chief, building adjuster, City of Yonkers personnel, department of buildings inspector, industrial cleaning crews, engineers, media, etc. We started contacting people about our situation. Clients, insurance brokers, utilities, mom, dad, friends, everyone we could think of that had any association with us. We immediately put feelers out for new space as it was evident that none of us would be able to return to 222 Lake Avenue. Looking for space can be particularly stressful when you are under enormous pressure like we are. No space to work in = no revenue.
While trying to sort ourselves out and naively thinking that 4 inches of water would be pumped out rather quickly, we found out on Wednesday that plumbers, who may have been testing the sprinkler system that did not work during the fire, broke a valve that literally opened the floodgates. Our shop was now in about 4 feet of water and they had not been able to shut off the water. It seems that buildings as old as 222, which was built in 1890, originally had their own water lines that were not connected to the Yonkers lines, so the big guns had to be called in to dig a hole to get to the water line to shut it off.
Thursday dawned and we optimistically returned to the burned out building just as we had done everyday. We were heartened to see water coming out of the building, thinking we were finally being pumped out. Alas, it was not to be. Water was being drained all right, but from the first floor. The water that had been flooding our space had not been shut off. Not much info available on when we might be able to assess our damage. The fire department was trying to allay our fears but things were looking pretty grim. In the meantime, we had been to see several spaces, most of which would not work for us. Too small, too big, too expensive, not in an industrial zone, too short a lease, too expensive to be brought up to code, etc. Advertised spaces that seemed promising were usually taken when we called. Every "space available" sign we came upon we called. Every night we're exhausted. One or the other is dismayed. Sometimes we both are. But everyday we wake up, thank the man upstairs for another day and start all over again.
Friday began with our usual optimism and this time we were not totally disappointed. The water that had by now been pouring in our workshop had been stopped. But we still did not know when we'd be allowed in our workshop and neither did the fire department. Our enthusiasm on Friday was dampened on Monday when we found out that over the weekend pipes froze and burst and another foot of water poured into the shop. By this time we have been asking ourselves, "will this misery ever end????"
During all this sturm und drang, we're still open for business. We're working out of our home, Starbucks, our yard, wherever we happen to be when that call or email comes in about a project. We're fully committed to completing all the projects that were on our docket prior to the fire. To that end, we have set up a makeshift shop where we have our yard. Not all of our tools and equipment are at hand but we're managing. Conditions are a little rough but we come from a tough stock and will make do until we find a new shop to hang our tools.
Yesterday morning we were told that there would be no access to the building until an engineer deems it safe to go in. While it was certainly frustrating to us, we understand that after a fire like that in such an old building, safety has to be the number one issue. We went to the fire department to get the fire report and pleaded with them to let us go in to get some of our materials and tools. They gave us exactly a half hour and escorted us and even helped us move some things out. We are eternally grateful to the Yonkers Fire Department for their help. They will again assist us when the time comes for us to get all our paraphernalia out of that space.
We are also so grateful to all the people who have contacted us to help - friends, family, neighbors, clients. We're especially humbled and touched by all the strangers who have reached out to us after seeing our Instagram and FB posts. People have offered a day of help when moving out our stuff, which we will need to take them up on. Others have been offering us legal, real estate and insurance advise, all of which we are heeding. Most important, people who have suffered the same fate have been reaching out to us about their experiences and their advice on how best to move upward and onwards. All are welcome!
We feel encouraged and empowered and looking to build a better and more productive work environment.
Adversity introduces a man to himself.