Two families displaced by New Year's Eve fire


No one was hurt, but two families were displaced on New Year's Eve after the vacant apartment between them caught on fire at the Colonial Square housing complex at Virginia Lane in Amsterdam.

City firefighters responded to a call for a possible structure fire in the kitchen of apartment G5 around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Battalion Chief Richard DePasquale said upon firefighters' arrival, flames were visible at the back entrance of the structure.

Second and third alarms were called for additional manpower, and firefighters were able to quickly knock down the blaze before it spread to other the apartments in the unit.

DePasquale said the investigation into the cause and site of origin is ongoing, but Battalion Chief Michael Whitty said this morning it possibly involved the stove.

Jeanne Bottomley, who lives in apartment G6 with her husband, son and pets, said her neighbors in G5 had just moved earlier in the day to another apartment within the complex. She was under the impression they may have left some food cooking in the oven, but DePasquale said he was not able to confirm that Tuesday.

Bottomley said the family planned to stay at a hotel Tuesday night, but she expected they would be able to return today.

Bottomley was caring for her two grandchildren Tuesday -- a 4-month-old baby, and a 21-month-old toddler. Everyone was home when she could smell a fire, and Bottomley's son noticed smoke billowing through the walls.

"The first thing we did was get the babies out of the house," she said, adding that another neighbor opened up her home so they wouldn't have to brace the afternoon's freezing temperatures. "We ran outside without any shoes or socks," she said.

Crystine Rosario of apartment G4 was the other resident displaced by the fire. Rosario said as soon as she noticed there was a fire next door, she and a neighbor who lived nearby worked to break down the door of apartment G5 to make sure no one was inside.

Residents said they had just moved back into their apartments in recent months after the structures underwent significant renovations.

Formerly known as Highland and Holland Gardens Apartments, the complex was renamed Colonial Square after Liberty Affordable Housing purchased it. The sale took place several months after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed deplorable living conditions and failed on-site inspections on the Holland Gardens side in early 2012 .

Prior to the sale, the city's Common Council in September 2012 approved a 35-year payment in lieu of taxes for Liberty Affordable Housing at that site. That also guaranteed payment of back city, school and county taxes, and continued low- to moderate-income housing for residents.

Under Liberty Affordable Housing's ownership, the site is managed by CRM Rental Management.