The House Next Door
As one of many homeowners who dealt with one of the biggest challenges of our lives after Sandy turned our community upside-down, I am thankful to see the Rockaways slowly approaching some semblance of normalcy. However, not all of us are back to normal. Many of us know friends and neighbors who are struggling financially. I have heard that there are longtime residents who are still not back in their pre- Sandy homes. Our neighborhoods haven't completely recovered just yet.
As a cancer survivor my health has always been a challenge. But now the unseen effects of Sandy are re-aggravating my weakened lungs and immune system because of a foreclosed house next door where filth, vermin and toxic mold sit inside an abandoned home owned by a bank unwilling to clean it.
The house, located at 145-08 Neponsit Avenue, hasn't been cleaned out since Sandy's waters receded back into the ocean. The former owner never returned after the storm and the China-based bank, HSBC, has done nothing to address the house in the 18 months since Sandy. I suspected my increasing bouts of wheezing and light-headedness were due to something in the air, and then I thought about that house. As I got closer to the house I could smell mold coming from within. I've also seen rats running in and out of the house. I eventually hired a private environmental specialist, on my own dime, to test the mold levels after my calls to the city and DEP went nowhere. The tests confirmed my suspicions: mold was detected in the air immediately surrounding the empty house.
I contacted my local homeowner's association, the city, and no one has been able to help. I fear that because the mold isn't affecting everyone like it's affecting me and my husband, then our health will continue to deteriorate. Last year we hired an attorney to force the bank to do something, but a series of adjournments and appeals have dragged the case on while we wonder what we're breathing in. I’ve been seeing doctors non-stop. My doctors tell me to move. Move? Move where? My husband and I spent a fortune rebuilding our lives. We shouldn't have to pack up and leave because people won't do the right thing. HSBC, who chose simply to leave the Rockaways after their local branch on Beach 116th Street was damaged during Sandy, can afford to give up. I can't.
As homeowners, many of us are concerned with property value and neighborhood blight--but without our health we can't even begin to function as people. So far we've had conversations with District Leader Lew Simon, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz' office about pushing for a resolution. Other elected officials and members of the press have largely ignored my countless emails and voicemails. Mr. Goldfeder's office has told us that there are other Rockaway residents facing similar problems abandoned homes, many with environmental hazards. While there may not be a simple solution, I know that "Rockaway Strong" means sticking together and making sure we all look out for each other. In that spirit I ask for help from my neighbors and community leaders. Please help us. Thank you.