2013-01-04 / Columnists

Eye On Rockaway

Mold Is An Issue
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

One week after Superstorm Sandy hit, the Arverne Cancer Support Group was scheduled to hold its annual ‘Celebration of Life’ dinner. As we all know, the people in Rockaway had more on their minds at that time, like picking up the pieces of their lives.

The two people to be honored that night were to be Councilman and State Senator-elect James Sanders Jr. and myself. I just want to take this space to thank all the members of the Arverne Cancer Support Group for their recognition, and I was proud to be sharing the evening with Senator-elect Sanders. I was honored to be recognized by the group.

The real drawback to the dinner not taking place is that, as the group’s annual fundraising event, not having the dinner will deprive the group of needed funds to hold the various events it holds throughout the year. As a cancer survivor I know the importance of the workshops, health fairs and camaraderie that the Arverne Cancer Support Group provides. Unfortunately, as of now, the chances of rescheduling the dinner are pretty much non-existent. If you are looking to make a beginning of the year donation the Arverne Cancer Support Group is a very worthy cause. Their contact information can be found on Community Board 14’s website under directory.

One of the major problems facing those who went through Sandy is mold. Mold infestation is a common concern all over the peninsula. FEMA and the city’s Rapid Repairs program does not cover mold abatement. Many people cannot afford the some-times several thousand dollars it takes to do a proper cleanup of the mold that is growing in their homes.

According to a report in the Daily News, social service agency Met Council found that “only one in five families are hiring professional mold cleaning services.” Meanwhile the rest are “either painting over the mold or purchasing cheap and ineffective cleanup kits.”

Such methods will not kill the mold. It will only hide it as it continues to spread. Children and adults are at risk of getting sick from this hidden threat. It is time for Mayor Bloomberg to rethink the goals of the Rapid Repairs program. At a forum in Rockaway in November Kathryn Mallon from the Rapid Repairs program explained that their focus is on helping people get heat, power and hot water and shelter in place. Well, that is all well and good but shelter with a toxic substance growing all around you is not a safe situation. Many are calling for Bloomberg to add mold removal to the Rapid Repairs program. Public advocate and mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio has gone further. He is calling for: Securing FEMA reimbursement for mold cleanup; Creating a hotline specifically for mold-related inquiries, Expanding mold inspections, and establishing a health monitoring network like the city did after the attacks of Septemer 11, 2001 so that those who have suffered respiratory issues since Sandy can sign up for long-term health monitoring.

These ideas are no-brainers and should be undertaken immediately. Expand the Rapid Repairs program and put in place De Blasio’s suggestion. People all over the city are at risk because of mold. The longer the mayor waits, the worse things will get. Mr. Mayor, something needs to be done now.

Finally, Happy New Year to everyone. There’s no doubt that 2012 tested us all. Here’s to a better 2013.

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