By Miriam Rosenberg
May 10, 2013
Six months after Sandy chased numerous local residents from their homes as a result of flooding and damage, it is still not safe to live in many of those homes. Toxic mold, a serious problem for many, was ad-dressed at a press conference and tour of several homes in Far Rocka-way and Arverne earlier this week.
On May 7th, Councilman Donovan Richards joined Faith In NY to press for more aid for mold remediation.
“We need the mayor and the city to do more,” said Joanne Murray, of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea and St. Gertrude’s. “Why has the borough and the Rockaways been forgotten once again?”
Richards called for part of the $1.77 billion block grant the city is receiving from the federal government this week to be put aside solely for mold remediation.
“Homeowners in this area are still struggling,” said Richards. “Many don’t know where services are…. It’s a crying shame that the city is not doing more to promote its remediation program.”
In January, the city announced its Neighborhood Revitalization NYC initiative meant to help 2,000 homes in the areas that were hardest hit by Sandy to receive free mold remediation. According to Richards, of those 2,000 slots, only 1,400 have been filled. “The city needs to do better,” con-tinued Richards. “My constituents cannot come back to their homes with their children with mold in it.”
Pastor Yvonne Rankine, her husband and elderly aunt, evacuated their Deerfield Road home for Sandy and returned to find 4 1/2 feet of water in their basement. They had no heat, hot water or gas and used kerosene heaters. Even after the electricity came back on, the use of electric heaters caused the electric bill to skyrocket. Between that and “feeling the effects of the fumes” she and her family had to leave. A dead plant in the dining room remains as testament to the conditions that were in the house.
Her basement has since been gutted. But there is still visible mold. “We do need some professional re-mediation,” said Rankine, of World Harvest Deliverance Center. “We’re not happy we had to return to a home in this condition…. We’re trying to make it feel like home, but this is a health hazard.”
They returned recently after being told that FEMA would no longer pay for sheltering in a hotel. Gregory Hylton shares his home with his parents, who live on the first floor and tenants who live above them. The basement of the Bay 32th Street home was his apartment until Sandy hit.
The home was assessed for mold three times. First, they were told it was just in the basement. “The walls had to be ripped away,” said Hylton, who has lived in the house for eight years. “Then we had to take more of the walls off…. Then we had to take the walls off the base of the garage.”
Hylton added, “Mold was traveling up the walls to the first floor. We’re looking for help to rebuild the basement…. There is still more mold.” Hylton says he has been to FEMA who “was supposed to hook us up with banks that could give us loans with low interest. Unfortunately, we have not gotten anywhere with that yet.”
Ian Victor, on Beach 41st Street, has been doing the repairs on his home himself. He is also doing upgrades to make his home more resilient.
“Within the first few days I got the insulation out, everything out.” said Victor. “So the mold didn’t get a chance to build.”
Victor did say that he believed that the government “could have reached out more to help.” He added, “I don’t think enough was done for mold inspections. They should have had inspectors coming to see what was happening with the mold.”
Jackie Rogers’ house on Beach 42th Street was gutted in November. The inside mold problem was taken care of by LISC, who is doing the remediation for the city program. Outside is a different story, as she showed Richards that mold is still visible on the outside of the home.
According to a report by AJR, less than 20 percent of 700 families who they’ve talked to in Rockaway and Staten Island know about the city mold remediation program. For more information about the program, call 311, and ask for the mold remediation hotline. Neighborhood Revitalization NYC is an affiliate of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
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