Friends of Rockaway, an organization formed after Hurricane Sandy to help residents remove mold from their devastated homes and rebuild, received nearly three quarters of a million dollars from the American Red Cross to continue their work.
The grant of $721,550 will go toward hiring local contractors, plumbers and electrician to help rebuild homes still in need of fixes from the storm eight months ago.
“The Red Cross is currently sending funds donated after Hurricane Sandy to urgent needs in five different states,” said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross, Greater New York Region. “Those donations have led to clear signs of progress and that’s because of incredible organizations like Friends of Rockaway that have served their neighbors who are in tremendous need.”
Michael Sinensky, founder of Friends of Rockaway, said the grant will help the group fix 90 more homes, on top of the nearly 1,000 on the Rockaway Peninsula they’ve already worked on, including about 400 the group has completely gutted.
“Thanks to the generosity and hard work from the Red Cross and their donors, our organization will be able to repair and rebuild almost 100 homes that were destroyed by Sandy,” Sinensky, a Rockaway native, said. “Also benefiting from his grant will be several unemployed Rockaway residents who will receive training and rebuilding jobs over the next year.”
The organization relies on volunteers, but also hires local carpenters and contractors to do some of the work. Mold remediation projects, which took up much of the group’s earlier work during the winter and spring, are contracted out through a bid process.
Friends of Rockaway has worked on homes as far east as Far Rockaway and as far west as Breezy Point. The grant was announced at a press conference in front of the Arverne home of Felix and Linita Lyons on Beach 46th Street. Their one-story structure was destroyed by six feet of water during Sandy and is still gutted and the Lyons still aren’t back in the home.
Lyons said he and his wife, who is pregnant, have not lived in the home since Sandy. They first stayed in Brooklyn immediately after the storm, before spending several months in a hotel near JFK Airport. Now, they are living behind a day care center they run a few blocks from their home, which is located in a high risk flood zone, only a block south of Jamaica Bay.
Lyons said he contacted Friends of Rockaway through the group SCO Family of Services and they began work on the house a few months ago.
“It took us about six weeks to get our day care up and running,” Lyons said. “It’ll take another few months before we’ll get back in the home.”
Todd Miner, director of Friends of Rockaway, will use some of the grant money to demolish the structure and rebuild it as a modular home, It is one of the 90 projects the grant money will go toward.
“Our families are still struggling,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) at the press conference. “Every day we can take resources and put them back into the community, that’s a great day. But today’s an even greater day because it’s not going to some group we don’t know or some stranger. It’s going to local contractors.”