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Bedford Avenue Residents Abandon Homes for Good After Devastating Fire

By Meredith Hoffman | January 30, 2013 9:12am

WILLIAMSBURG — As she shone a flashlight on the scorched rubble of her 6-month-old baby's bedroom, Tara McPherson prepared to salvage what she could. Just one week earlier she had been on vacation when friends started texting her the chilling news: her Bedford Avenue apartment was up in flames.

"I was in disbelief, in nervous laughter, it was so surreal," McPherson recalled of learning of the four-alarm fire while she was in Mexico visiting her father. "My neighbor ran up and saved our bunny."

The devastating incident — which began in the Cross County Savings Bank and  destroyed units on 173, 175 and 177 Bedford Ave. — has indefinitely closed two businesses and has left McPherson and other residents struggling to find new shelter.

And with the clean-up expected to take at least six months, McPherson said she is giving up on her home of the past seven years to start over elsewhere.

"Our apartment was demolished," she said of the third-floor unit where she lived with her boyfriend Sean Leonard and their baby Roman. "They said it would take at least six months to repair the building, to redo the wiring...and everything is going to be gutted."

The stresses of the fire's aftermath, for McPherson and her neighbors, have ranged from finding new housing to collecting lifelong possessions. And for tenants looking to return, the uncertainty of when work will finish is a constant preoccupation.

"It's very frustrating," said Jonathan Rogers, another tenant at 173 Bedford Ave. who lived in the building with his girlfriend. "We've been crashing on my sister's couch looking for somewhere else to stay."

And Anton Baranenko, who has also lived in 173 Bedford Ave. the past two years, said he also "has no home" since the disaster last week.

"I was there 15 minutes before the fire," said Baranenko, who installs beer systems for his job and had run out to serve a client right before the accident. "It's horrible, you're at home working one minute and the next minute you're standing out on the street hoping your cat isn't dead."