A church parish house that gives the homeless a place to stay stood empty Tuesday night after a fire in the basement. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Cane in hand, Angel Rivera helped lead his teenage nephew out of the Trinity Presbyterian Church parish house Monday afternoon.
"Terrified," he said. "Not for me, really. For the kid, because I thought he was going to freak out on me."
Workers and neighbors across 57th Street watched firefighters gear up and go downstairs to battle the basement blaze.
It took them about a half hour to get it under control, tying up traffic between Ninth and 10th avenues in the middle of the evening rush.
Many first responders had to be decontaminated because of possible asbestos in the building, which is more than 100 years old.
"We have been here for a long time. We want to be here to continue to serve the community," said the Rev. Dr. Robert Foltz-Morrison of the Presbytery of New York City.
Church officials said the sanctuary seems to be unharmed, but the parish house was badly damaged. It's a space dedicated to more than the church's 50-plus congregants.
"Saturday night, seniors dinner. All the AA meetings, all of the Bible studies, all of the computer classes," said the Rev. Marcel Welty of the Trinity Presbyterian Church.
It's also where people live. A couple of elderly folks who don't have homes, plus the caretaker, his son and his uncle, Angel Rivera, live there.
"We're waiting to see what's going to happen, where they are going to put us up for the night. Right now, I'm homeless," Rivera said. "I'll see what happens with this because I have a lot of faith in God."
The Holiday Inn may help sustain his faith. The hotel a few doors down is providing free rooms for two nights to those affected by the fire.
The church does plan service in the sanctuary on Sunday.