Thursday, March 12, 2009
Family Struggles after Devastating Fire
Friend Leads Effort to Help Recovery
By Conor Greene
A Rego Park family is struggling to make ends meet following a devastating apartment fire, but a close friend is doing his part to help them recover and move on with their lives.
In the early morning of February 26, the 18th floor apartment in the Park City complex that was home to the Zeltser family caught fire, possibly due to an electrical malfunction. Eighteen-year-old Daniella Zeltser awoke to find the bedroom she shared with her younger broker Alan engulfed in flames. She quickly alerted her brother and parents, who were able to flee the apartment. Alan was able to grab the family’s dog on the way outside.
The fire completely destroyed the apartment and the family’s belongings, according to family friend Ed Gochman, who has known his neighbor Diana Zeltser for 20 years. After stopping by to survey the damage, he realized immediately that he had to do something to help the Zeltsers cope with the difficult situation.
“I went inside the apartment, and I’m just amazed,” recalled Gochman. “I haven’t seen anything like this. I was in awe of the damage. You can stand there and see what would have happened two minutes later to everybody. I saw the faces of the kids, and I have two small kids myself, and I couldn’t sleep without thinking about how I could help.”
Gochman has created a website, help4dianazeltser.weebly.com, and a Facebook page to organize the effort to collect donations for the family. He has also created a Facebook group called Help for Diana Zeltser that people can join to find out how to help.
Unfortunately, the fire couldn’t have come at a worse time for the family. Diana’s husband, Sasha lost his job about a year ago, causing the couple to fall behind on the mortgage payments. With the family struggling to make ends meet, it dropped its insurance coverage, according to Gochman. “It was the worst possible timing – she almost lost her apartment, and then it burned.”
The family is currently staying with Diana’s mother on 108th Street in Forest Hills. “They’re going through a lot, especially the kids, they’re terrified,” said Gochman. “Any noise, or passing fire trucks, they wake up. Diana is trying more or less to hold up… She has hope now.”