2013-03-15 / Community

Friends of Rockaway Offers Free Sandy Services

By Katie McFadden

After Hurricane Sandy, many residents were relying on the help of friends and neighbors to get them back on their feet as outside sources weren’t immediately available to help. A group of Rockaway residents became the friend that Rockaway needed during this trying time. Friends of Rockaway is one of the many groups that stepped up to the plate and started helping those in need.

Rockaway natives, Evan Abel,

Michael Sinensky, Chris Miles,

Etan Fraiman, Joe Fraiman, Jordon Brown, Danny Brown and

Melissa Sorger came together to found the nonprofit group Friends of Rockaway shortly after Sandy hit.

Friends of Rockaway (FOR) offers free services to residents including muck and gutting, mold assessment, mold remediation, rebuilding and more. The group immediately started reaching out to the community and figuring out what residents needed most after Sandy. Then they got to work.

With funding through grants provided by The Robin Hood Foundation, which held the 12.12.12. Hurricane Sandy relief concert, FOR has been able to provide free services to residents. They’ve also provided jobs.

The group hired 25 unemployed Rockaway residents and put them to work in their own community. The residents were trained to become professional construction workers. “They receive OSHA certification and training on how to do proper residential demolition,” FOR Director, Todd Miner said.

“We think the best way to spend the grant money that we have been awarded is to hire local residents to do work for the community. That way we are benefiting two groups and getting toward our overall goal, which is to rebuild the Rockaways in the long-term,” Miner continued.

While it has been nearly five months since Hurricane Sandy hit and many residents have started the rebuilding process, FOR is finding that many residents still need help with mucking, gutting and mold assessment.

Many residents have said they’re ready to start rebuilding, but Miner and FOR are finding that residents aren’t at that point yet. In a recent survey of homes, volunteers who went in found that “50 percent of the people who said that they needed help rebuilding actually needed mold assessment and they were found to be positive for mold,” Miner explained.

Miner, who took on the role of director about a month ago, knows what he’s talking about. He worked for FEMA in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He also edited a handbook on urban disasters and urban flooding. Yet Miner calls his role with Friends of Rockaway, “the best job I ever had.

“My job is to convince homeowners that I should take a look. Half the time I find that there’s still work to be done,” Miner said about going to homes of residents who believe they’re ready for the rebuilding stage.

Through their mucking and gutting program, FOR helped roughly 200 homes. Each of those homes also received free mold assessment. FOR also conducted residential surveys of roughly 4,000 homes to determine what residents need the most.

With a mold remediation pilot program, 30 homes are being remediated over the next few weeks. Depending on how the pilot program goes, the group plans to assess other homes in the future and help them with remediation depending on their need.

“We are hoping to bring this to a wider audience on the peninsula once we have a better sense of how it will work,” Miner said.

Through this program, FOR has been able to reduce recovery costs for residents. “Previously, we saw homes costing 8,000 dollars and it looks like we have reduced the average cost to 4,000 dollars,” Miner said.

With much more work to be done, Friends of Rockaway plans to be around for a long time. “Our goal is to get homes to the level they were at before Sandy,” Miner said. With this goal in mind, FOR plans to help homes with rebuilding in the future.

They plan to work with the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit organization which has helped people rebuild their homes in New Orleans since 2006, following Hurricane Katrina. Even though so many years have passed, the St. Bernard Project is still working on 100 homes a year in New Orleans.

Friends of Rockaway plans to work with this group over the next three to five years to help create happy living environments for residents on the peninsula once again. They hope that by working with the group, the rebuilding process won’t take as long as it has in New Orleans.

“They stumbled and learned from mistakes. By partnering, we can learn from their mistakes and essentially get more homes done quicker,” Miner said.

If you’re in need of mucking and gutting, mold assessment, mold remediation or rebuilding, contact Friends of Rockaway by calling 347-625-7419 or visiting FriendsofRockaway.org.

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