2012-12-07 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Commentary By Joan Mettler

After the initial shock of the storm, the displacement, then the assess-ment of loss, then manner and means of remediation and the anger and the bookkeeping and the phone calls and the mixed messages begin to subside, homeowners in Rockaway must take time to clear their minds and think about the future of our family, our home and our neighborhood. To those who died as a result of the storm, our profound sympathy.

Hopefully, by this writing, we all have electricity. Day by day more of us are getting heat; but, still unsure if we can drink tap water. And, we are the lucky ones. Does the fact that I was nearly swept away in the storm haunt me? Every day!

Does the reality grip me that had I not nailed my front door shut and the wind and storm surge pushed it open, I could have been killed? It does. Does the fact that getting everything done and done correctly post-storm reaches the category of overwhelming, making sleeping soundly impossible, gnaw away at me each day and night? It does! And, ultimately, does the reality that the city, state and federal government have not communicated essentials for residents in a coordinated outreach program make the entire experience more difficult? Assuredly! Most nights I lay awake, unable to capture sustained sleep, composing To-Do lists in my mind

Mold remediation is the primary goal for virtually all of us.

Chromium Chloride sprayed in affected areas, a chemical available in 5 gallon containers, seems to be the best defense against mold. Some recommend Tilex. The wet sheetrock when removed exposed studs that need to be treated and dry out. For those who have not as yet secured a boiler, the Rapid Response Team will get one and install it for you free of charge. Those of us who purchased boilers on our own will be compensated by FEMA.

Once wood studs have been treated, heating the area to assure drying prior to replacing the sheetrock is the next move. Sheetrocking, according to some, should not start until the offended area is thoroughly dry. Some say, after Christmas.

In addition, some recommend the chromium chloride be sprayed on both sides of the new sheetrock prior to installation to head off future mold.

FEMA, helpful for some, an enigma to others, is trying to reach out to all of us. After initial phone contact during which a file number is given to each victim, home evaluators visit each house to determine the dollar amount of payment to homeowners for structural damage and off premises living expenses.

Homeowners must consult their private insurance companies ready with policy numbers, secure a copy of their private settlement, then apply for the Small Business Loan (for property contents) which is not really a business loan at all.

The application for the SBL (no matter how ill-named), must be faxed in with the list of contents that was not covered by private insurance, the settlement papers and the cover page. The SBA can pay what is not covered by personal insurance. And, the ‘loan’ could become a grant necessitating no repayment. Governor Cuomo is offering a $10,000 one time infusion evaluated along with FEMA and private insurance payments to help make victims whole. The application for the governor’s grant is available at the military building on the State Road to Breezy. Just look for where the cars are parked to your left before Al LoVoi’s.

National Greed is giving a credit to those who were forced to replace heating units.

LIPA (aren’t monopolies wonderful), has no culpability nor has it conscience. Thus, it will give us nothing for the time we were without electricity plus the $100 we spent for the inspection to get service turned on.

Verizon has been most generous as they have given credit for a portion of October and November to those who are subscribers; but, for the credit you must make one phone call now and one after having received your next bill. If subscribers to Verizon used their own gasoline powered generators for Verizon services make sure this is emphasized during the phone call.

Since the storm, I personally hired two companies, the first to clean my ground floor (no basement) out and the second to spray and sheetrock. The second company, Emanuel Home Improvement out of Staten Island, stole anything that the storm didn’t destroy necessitating me to call the police. The police asked me to prepare a list of what was missing (good thing I had photographed the entire area the morning prior to their starting) and present it to them with a date for them to make restitution or return the exact items taken.

Mind you, I noted the stealing the third day they were working at my home and brought this to the attention of the boss, Angel Santiago, to no avail. Angel was presented the list on 11/18/12 with a return date of 11/25/12. I still have not heard from him. This experience certainly makes the entire storm experience more intense.

One of my least favorite experiences was with CITIBANK, our closed branch 246 on BCD. The back story is both of my cars were totaled leaving me without wheels the entire month of November. When I was finally able to purchase a vehicle, I phoned the bank and asked if I could do a wire transfer instead of a certified check since there is no bank and since I don’t have transportation. After several minutes they told me they could only transfer $10,000, a figure way short of the sales price. After complaining, they told me they could do $20,000 but not more.

I argued with them that it was my money in the account and that I only wanted access to my own money. They told me it was impossible and a long standing rule instituted by the FDIC. My comment was that was fine when cars cost $2,000 new; but, that’s not the case now. I could have been talking to an empty chair.

I was able to get a cashier’s check for the car when my Queensboro Toyota salesman, Bruce, picked me up at my house, drove me to the bank, the post office and the dealership to close the deal. What a guy!

Still giving out compliments, unending gratitude goes to the volunteers who have helped us all: The Latter Day Saints (with an accent on the saints), Navillus (thanks guys), folks who drove by and dropped off pizzas, young locals working at the tents (you rock, Jamie), Ed Fitzgerald who helped so many get electric certification, ordinary folks from Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Red Hook, Manhattan and Jersey, many of them doing the heavy lifting of which older people are incapable, thanks. Team Rubicon, Rockaway gives a shout out to you. The food donators and providers and cooks who gave some people the only hot meal they had each day, we thank you. Saint Francis, none of this would have been possible without your generosity.

Despite the damage sustained in your school building, you were and are a true community gem. Volunteers at the Yacht Club and the Silver Gull, we thank you.

The FDNY gets a thumb’s up for watching over us and cleaning our streets, the police for protecting us from looters and, our sanitation force and heavy equipment operators for eliminating endless piles of debris.

Our helpful neighbors who never quit trying to make living under duress possible, we thank you all.

It would be remiss if we did not reflect on neighborhood children who could conceivably be scarred for quite some time by the horrific experience of the storm.

Even if parents try to make a game of the relocation and all, kids are smarter than we often give them credit for. Let them talk about the way they feel as often as need be.

Also, many locals by this time are short of temper. Thus, we must give them some slack, as well.

What can we expect in Rockaway in the near future? Little by little we can expect to come back.

Hopefully the Parks Department will install temporary barriers in place of the sea walls to protect our beach blocks from sand inundation this winter. Our thoughts are with our merchants who, at this time, face an uncertain Rockaway future.

However, when it comes to the future of the Rockaways we know, one fact is certain: After what we have endured, if we stick together we will pull though, bruised but alive to face what comes along. After all, we are Rockaway.

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