Tag Archives: sandy

Political Roundup: De Blasio, Lhota face off in final debate


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

ROUNDUP

Mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota had their third and final debate Wednesday.

The debate was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was moved to last night in observance of the Sandy anniversary,

Questions about Sandy led off the debate, but the two once again battled over many of the same issues they did in the previous two debates, including education, crime and taxes.

A Quinnipiac University poll released the same day of the debate showed de Blasio still has as significant lead over Lhota in the race.

MORE HEADLINES

Former Mayor Dinkins hospitalized with ‘mild touch of pneumonia’: CBS New York

Adjusting the Moreland script, Cuomo goes to war with former Senate allies: Capital New York

City Council moving to take away speaker’s ‘pork’ power: New York Post

Senate blocks Obama picks for judge, housing posts: AP

Edward Snowden gets a job working in tech support for Russian website: lawyer: New York Daily News

 

Sandy firefighter heroes recognized on anniversary


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

One year ago they were in boats and swimming through floodwaters to rescue the residents of south Queens as it was battered by Sandy.

On the anniversary of the superstorm, Vetro by Russo’s on the Bay gathered the firefighter crews and recognized them for their bravery.

“Around 9:30 p.m. that night we got seven feet of water in the firehouse,” said Deputy Chief Andy Zych of the West Hamilton Beach Fire Department.

The department’s fire trucks, ambulances and equipment were ruined. So a neighbor lent the crew a fishing boat, and they got to paddling. Zych and a fellow firefighter rescued a woman, her mother and their two dogs from their flooding home and brought them to the firehouse.

“In a time like that, you don’t think. You just try and do the best you can,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Broad Channel, the local firehouse was also flooded with seven feet of water, but the crew set out into the night.

“On a regular, everyday basis, you don’t worry about anything else other than the task at hand,” said Deputy Chief Eddie Wilmarth. “But the majority of us live down here. You know as you’re grabbing people out of their houses, you know your own house is being destroyed.”

Before the storm, the Broad Channel Fire Department took a head count of everyone staying in town so they knew “who was where, and what they need,” Wilmarth said.

As the wind and rain pushed on, the floodwaters were too deep for trucks to drive through, so rescue swimmers were sent out to respond to a fire that broke out on a flood-prone street. The current was too strong for them to make it, so they swung ropes around poles to pull themselves across the intersection.

In the end, the flood put out the fire.

“We were on our own. We were the only ones operating,” Wilmarth said.

The Broad Channel department also lost all of its trucks and ambulances. But, as Wilmarth said, “the fire world is a big brotherhood,” and all of the storm-affected firehouses received equipment from all over the country.

West Hamilton Beach received a fire truck from a crew in Mississippi, who had been given that same truck after Hurricane Katrina.

Both fire crews and others in the area are back up and running, but say they’re still not back to 100 percent. Even still, they were back responding to calls just days after Sandy.

“If anything happens, we will be there,” Zych said.

 

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Sandy: Looking back on a year


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Top photo by Melissa Chan/Bottom photo by Alexa Altman

October 29, 2012—the day Sandy reared her ugly head and barreled through, leaving a swath of destruction in her wake.

In this week’s issue and online, The Courier has brought you tales of rebuilding, tales of resiliency – and stories of a borough that is bouncing back.

Here’s a recap of the stories:

 

PHOTOS: Sandy Then & Now


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Sandy Then and Now

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

 

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Chelsea Clinton helps with Sandy recovery during ‘Day of Action’ in the Rockaways


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Clinton Foundation

The Clintons joined the ongoing Sandy recovery in a “Day of Action” in the Rockaways.

Chelsea Clinton and hundreds of volunteers visited Brookville Park, Rockaway Park, P.S. 197 and homes in Far Rockaway on Saturday to revitalize the damaged communities. This is the fifth Day of Action, which has brought in volunteers from all over the country to give back to their own communities.

Clinton also participated in the St. Bernard Project to break ground on the future site of the first “Resilient House.”

The former first daughter joined the home’s future owners, the Lyons family, at the event.

The Resilient House will be designed by Sustainable TO Architecture + Building and is modeled to be energy efficient, cost effective and able to withstand future disasters.

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Cross Bay businesses make a comeback


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

After opening her two-floor hair salon and spa on Cross Bay Boulevard in July last year, Kimberly Langona was devastated when months later, it was partially destroyed.

Superstorm Sandy wiped out the entire first floor of Explosion Hair Styling, destroying equipment including hair dryers, electrical wiring, furniture and computers.

“Everything was lost,” said Langona, who rebuilt the entire salon and replaced all the equipment, which cost an estimated $150,000. “I couldn’t even tell you how hard it was to turn people away.”

Photo courtesy Kimberly Langona

Explosions Hair Styling was completely reconstructed after receiving massive damage from Sandy. (THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre)

Full power was not restored to the building until December of last year, but Langona kept the salon and spa partially open by utilizing generators on the second floor, which is called Serenity Day Spa.

Now, a year later, business is buzzing at full capacity in the salon, much like other businesses on Cross Bay Boulevard.

The Howard Beach commercial strip was under water after Sandy struck on October 29, and many businesses were forced to close. Some never reopened and others endured months of rebuilding before making a comeback.

“It was a mess,” said Joe De Candia, owner of Lenny’s Clam Bar. “You couldn’t fathom that much water.”

About four feet of water rushed into the restaurant, a 40-year staple in the community which is famous for serving numerous celebrities. The force of the flooding tossed tables and chairs outside the eatery and the garbage compactor was moved four blocks away. All the electrical equipment and wiring on the first floor was destroyed and the walls were soaked with water.

The restaurant lost power for about three weeks, but De Candia said they immediately started making repairs, which were paid for out-of-pocket. After the power returned it took another two weeks before they had a partial reopening.

“We were limping but we were able to reopen,” De Candia said.

But because of Sandy, Lenny’s was able to come back bigger and better. The gym next door, Better Bodies Fitness for Women, wasn’t able to rebuild so De Candia bought the property and expanded the restaurant and added a party room. He also shifted the bar to make it bigger.

Lenny’s wasn’t the only business that improved following the storm.
Scott Baron & Associates PC completely rebuilt the first floor, making it more functional and adding state of-the-art-technology.

The law office, which has been known as a community champion for nearly 20 years, finally held its grand reopening in June. Before the Howard Beach office reopened though, Scott Baron, the owner, said they moved operations to their office in Yonkers.

Baron is happy that the commercial strip is back again and said it’s a testament to the community sticking together.

“I saw a lot of store owners helping store owners and neighbors helping neighbors, because everyone was in the same boat,” Baron said. “The community really came together.”

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Houses spring up in Breezy Point ‘fire zone’


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Rebuilding photos by Melissa Chan/Fire photo by Alexa Altman

Nobody can keep Breezy Point down, not even Sandy.

A year after the storm wiped away longstanding houses and an electrical fire burned down 135 residences, the framework for dozens of homes have appeared, particularly in a once vacant, ash-filled lot, in what residents have called the “fire zone.”

“The level of activity is mind boggling. Houses are up all over. It’s a major construction scene,” said Arthur Lighthall, general manager of the Breezy Point Cooperative. “I’m just overwhelmed that we’ve seen so much activity, as I was overwhelmed the two weeks after the storm thinking we’d never see this community come back to the way it is.”

The co-op office sees building applications coming in daily. As of October 17, the management team had seen 117 from home and business owners looking to rebuild.

Lighthall estimates they see two to three applications a day and said they are doing their “best” to gauge whether the building-design submissions fit the co-op’s limits.

Those limits reflect the city’s, Lighthall said, which require a base height of two feet, plus an additional foot. Each home’s height requirement depends upon the flood zone as well as the current sidewalk or land height of the area.

The building of 30 to 40 houses is underway and an additional 12 to 15 plans are in the final stages of being approved and can soon start rebuilding, according to Lighthall.

Building design applications are typically “identical” to what was there before.

“People just want their houses back,” Lighthall said.

The majority of residents are paying for the construction costs with FEMA grants, insurance money, or help from family. Roughly 1,700 homeowners applied for the city Build-it-Back program, but are waiting to hear what, if any, funds they will be granted.

“The people are doing it themselves in the community,” Lighthall said.

 

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Street Talk: What are your memories of Sandy?


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Street Talk Sandy

What I remember most is all of the houses destroyed, all of the people who suffered.

Ronald Kenchon

The slow reaction of the mayor and the insufficient plan for the disaster that was coming.

The mayor didn’t come to the aid of the outer boroughs quickly enough.

Robert Garner

It destroyed a lot of New Jersey and New York. Many people got hurt.

Daniel Ketz

I remember being really scared because nothing like that had ever happened to me before. Luckily our house wasn’t destroyed or anything, but a few friends of mine in Rockaway wound up with no power for a few days.

Gabby Hinton

I didn’t think it was going to be as big as deal as it turned out to be. Our house didn’t lose power but my parents kept us inside for a few days because they were afraid there would be looting.

Nathalie Blackmon

Our house didn’t have power for a couple of days, but my mom bought enough emergency food to last us in the meantime. I was pretty scared for my friends in other areas who I couldn’t get in touch with though.

Sharia Stevens

We sat by our front door and at about 9 p.m. the water started to rise above our entrance. We were helpless in our efforts to prevent the water from coming in. We waited it out. The water level was at a car door. It was very eerie because the power was off.

Herb Listopad

We had no electricity for 27 or 28 days. Fortunately, we live on the second floor. It was really windy, the trees were blowing and then the water came in. I would say about seven feet high outside. Boats were coming down my street. People were paddling boats to rescue people that were on their roofs or on the second floor.

Eric Hill

I live in Ozone Park so nothing much was going on over there. It was windy and looking out the window you could see the rain.

Ivan Wylie

I was standing in front my house and I actually saw the water when it was first coming. The water started to come from around the corner and flood the whole street. We were stunned we had never seen anything like that before so we came back in the house. It was such a frightening thing. We started to go up the steps because the water started to come in higher and higher.

Elliot Jacks

I think my block was the only one that still had power after the storm. We took a stroll to [Cross Bay Boulevard]. It was pretty bad. The trees were knocked down everywhere.

Yvan Pangilinan

The water had no place to go, it flooded the streets and it went up the streets and into everyone’s homes and it flooded the entire first level of the house. The upstairs was not touched. Everything downstairs had to be replaced: the heating, the air conditioning, every piece of furniture, the floor, the walls…

Dorris Brown

BY LIAM LA GUERRE, JOHANN HAMILTON & RACHEL LANDAU

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Army man’s family remains resilient after displacement from Breezy Point home


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Thomas Sullivan

Count on an Army man to barrel through devastation and come up optimistic.

Ocean waves, turned violent by Sandy, pushed a house onto Thomas Sullivan’s home last year, causing it to “twist and buckle” off its foundation until it was eventually torn down.

“It was my summer house and my winter, spring and fall house,” he said. “It was our home.”

Sullivan and his family are still displaced after losing their Beach 219th Street home of 12 years. But the man who has served more than 20 years in the reserves is marching them forward.

“Life has to go on. We have to go to work. We have to get the kids to school,” Sullivan said. “Life got a little more stressful, a little more challenging. But if we could be in a home after two years, I think it’s not the worst thing in the world.”

Before the storm hit, Sullivan, 42, sent his wife and three kids away from the coast to Levittown, Long Island. He chose to brave Sandy in his parents’ house in Breezy, which is farther from the ocean.

“I stayed for Irene, and I got a false sense that it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “Seeing the house next to my parents come down and seeing the damage throughout the night as it was happening, and the fires, I was expecting the worst.”

Sullivan was able to recover some photographs and jewelry from his house but had to deliver the dreaded news to his family: “There is no coming back to Breezy Point.”

“The kids had a big sleepover at their cousins’. They were having fun,” he said. “It was very sobering news to my wife to hear.”

Sullivan’s three kids — a pair of 11-year-old twin boys and an 8-year-old girl — “lost everything” and had to temporarily enroll in a new school in Levittown.

The youngsters proved as resilient as their hero dad, who served 13 months in Iraq and escaped from the 96th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Sullivan said they made friends and had a “positive impact on their classrooms” as one of the few displaced students there.

Now the family is back in Breezy, living with Sullivan’s parents and submitting rebuilding plans to the city.

“I didn’t know if we would be able to come back,” he said. “I thought we were going to have to sell our plot.”

Sullivan said “the beautiful environment” he loves about seaside Breezy Point was the same one that turned on him. Still, he said he could not see his family growing up anywhere else.

“It’s spotless, it’s pristine. There are pretty dunes, and it’s extremely safe here,” he said. “Life is simple in Breezy — or it was.”

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Storm victims navigate difficulties of insurance claims


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Sandy victims not only felt the wrath of the storm, but experienced the scramble to recover funds washed away with the floodwater.

Residents report having difficulty dealing with insurance companies and getting back what they believe to be theirs.

“The insurance companies have dominated this process because people really don’t know where to turn,” said lawyer John Houghtaling, who specializes in claim insurance litigation and disaster recovery law.

Local officials in south Queens have received complaints about insurance companies and inquiries as to where to turn.

City Councilmember Eric Ulrich’s office has fielded numerous complaints to the Department of Financial Services (DFS), which handles insurance issues.

“Do we receive complaints? Absolutely,” said John Capuano of the DFS. “People have gotten checks, they say it’s not enough or they think something was missed.”

The DFS has seen a significant spike in claims since the storm hit, Capuano said, and has been working to contact individual insurance companies.

They have additionally done field visits, where the DFS arranges for an adjuster from an insurance company to visit the problem site to “give it a second look” with a DFS staff member, according to Capuano.

 

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Op-Ed: Where are we one year later?


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SENATOR JOSEPH ADDABBO JR.

On any particular day, whether I’m working, getting a cup of coffee, shopping or having dinner in the district, people detail their experiences involving Superstorm Sandy in many different ways. A year later, many still get tears in their eyes, others remain frustrated about the lack of progress, while some see it as a chance to make improvements and some are optimistic about community improvements. One storm, a year later, still causes many emotions.

While we can’t control the weather, we can take steps to control the level of our preparedness and what direction our government takes in addressing the next storm. We’ve learned a lot from Sandy, and I would urge my constituents to think ahead and make sure they have detailed emergency plans in place: know how to contact one another in case of an emergency; have adequate supplies of canned goods, medicines, batteries, flashlights and water on hand; know what to do to help secure your homes and properties to minimize risks during a storm. Useful hurricane preparedness information may be found at this NYS Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/event/hurricane-safety.cfm.

I, along with other elected officials, have been advocating for adequate funding and needed legislation to help the district address the many serious human, economic and other consequences resulting from Sandy. As a member of the New York State Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy, I look forward to continuing the effort of our state in responding to Sandy’s devastation and obtaining assistance for those in need.  Currently, our city’s and state’s portion of the federal funding of $61 billion to help Sandy victims is being distributed through NYC Build It Back program, and the state’s utilization of community leaders in its NY Rising Community Reconstruction program aimed at improving our infrastructure.

A range of bills aimed at addressing various aspects of Sandy’s impact were passed by the state legislature and have been recently signed into law by the governor. Some topics include rebates of real property taxes, assisting Breezy Point residents with street frontage issues unique to Breezy Point, exemptions to filing fees related to federal Small Business Administration Disaster Loans, and the implementation of improved tornado warning systems.

This year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season is not yet over. We have learned a lot from Sandy and a year later are still dealing with its aftermath. It’s OK to share our emotions, feelings and sentiments about Sandy, knowing also that by working together we can rebuild and be prepared better than ever.

Senator Joseph Addabbo represents the 15th Senatorial District encompassing the communities – in whole or in part – of Broad Channel, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Glendale, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Woodside and the Rockaways.

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Tilted Breezy Point home becomes iconic image of storm devastation


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/House photo by Maggie Hayes / Below photo by Melissa Chan

The Mok family will always remember the image of their Breezy Point home knocked off its base and left lopsided for leveling after Sandy.

Not because they called it home for 60 years.

Not because the last memory of the childhood house was of it teetering on its side.

But because the tilted, seaside house, doomed for demolition, became one of the most iconic images of Sandy devastation in the Rockaways.

The family said the photo is constantly replayed in media flashbacks.

“It was the first house people saw when they came in, and now it’s everybody’s file photo,” said Harry Mok, 62.

The faded red house at 102 W. Market Street came close to careening into an adjacent home during the superstorm when rising waters lifted it off the ground. It came to a halt instead on top of a brick barrier between the two residences.

“It was like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” said Mok. “I couldn’t believe it.”

The city later condemned and razed the corner home, but it was a fate better than the shoreline house behind it, Mok said, which was completely carried out into the ocean by fierce storm waves.

“The old foundations were compromised,” he said. “They just didn’t have the strength.”

Mok said summers with his wife and three kids were spent at the beach house, which was in his wife’s family for six decades. The Flushing resident planned to eventually retire there.

Now only a plot of sand greets him when he returns once a week to fetch the mail.

“It was a total loss,” he said. “But we’re going to rebuild in the same spot.”

A slow application process is currently keeping shovels from hitting the ground, Mok said. He doesn’t expect construction to be finished until after next summer, and neighbors anticipate an even later move-in date.

“On the bright side,” he said, “from my porch, I’ll have a view of the water for a while.”

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Family-owned LIC restaurant cooks up a comeback


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Before photos courtesy of Lawrence Vecchio /  After photo THE COURIER/By Angy Altamirano

As an ocean rushed down the street and filled their basement-level restaurant with seven feet of water, brother and sister duo Laura and Lawrence Vecchio could only watch in fear of losing everything.

The Vecchio family was one of the thousands of business owners who received massive amounts of damage after Superstorm Sandy hit the city last October.

With their family-owned restaurant, Mia Famiglia, located at 44-29 9th Street — which opened only months before Sandy, in April 2012 — just a little over 500 feet away from the East River, the siblings were expecting a maximum of two to three feet of water after hearing the warnings of a storm. However, after standing in the first level lobby of the Wyndham Hotel, on whose lower level the restaurant is located, and watching the storm pass through Long Island City, they knew the next few months were going to be difficult.

“We anticipated water but not that,” said Laura, who is the head chef at the restaurant. “It looked like an ocean coming down the street.”

The family had close to $275,000 in losses and damages, including kitchen equipment, tables, chairs, walls and much more they had to repair and replace.

“Nothing was salvaged,” said Lawrence.

Along with dealing with the aftermath of the storm and staying closed for three months, the Vecchios said they also had no help from their landlord, the owners of the Wyndham Hotel, who they allege left them to fend for themselves.

The owners of the hotel did not return calls for comment as of press time.
Post Sandy, when the city released its new storm evacuation maps, the brother and sister duo learned Mia Famiglia was moved from Zone A to Zone 2. The Office of Emergency Management determined the maps “based on six evacuation zones that represent varying threat levels of coastal flooding resulting from storm surge.”

“There’s no logic to it, we didn’t move,” said Lawrence. “We’re still in the same spot. The water is still in the same spot. So how can you say we’re not Zone A severe?”

Yet, with all the damage and problems the storm threw their way, the family said Sandy has not put them down, but actually allowed them to come back stronger.

With the help of the Small Business Association, the Vecchio family fought to start the new year bringing back their warm family dishes, including homemade cheesecakes made by Antoinette Vecchio, a.k.a. “Mama,” to the Long Island City community.

Another helping hand also recently came through the Food Network which approached the family after Lawrence had created a Yelp account for the restaurant and shared their story. Mia Famiglia was invited to participate in a brand new show called “Restaurant Divided,” where restaurants are divided in half with two different concepts on each side, and in the end the idea with the best profitability and customer reviews can decide to either take home the money or get a full restaurant makeover.

Mia Famiglia appeared on the show’s debut episode on Thursday, October 24. In the episode, Laura had the idea to change the restaurant to a sports bar theme while Larry believed a steakhouse concept would win the hearts of customers. Chef and restaurateur Rocco DiSpirito then assessed customer reactions and the financial viability of each theme based on the one night and in the end selected Larry’s concept as the winner.

The restaurant was given a full makeover based on Larry’s idea and now is an “LIC steakhouse with Italian influence.”

“Sandy has actually hurt us and helped us at the same time,” said Laura. “So ‘she’ kind of torn us down and built us back up.”

 

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Fares suspended on Sandy anniversary for A train riders in Rockaways, Howard Beach


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Amy Hausmann

Governor Cuomo announced Friday that A train riders in the Rockaways and Howard Beach will ride for free all day on the anniversary of Sandy this Tuesday.

R train riders in Brooklyn also won’t need to pay October 29.

“These free rides are a thank you to the MTA riders in the Rockaways in Queens and those who use the R train in Brooklyn for taking the hardships of the storm in stride and for their understanding in the months since,” said Cuomo.

According to the governor, there will be no charge for MTA riders entering stations on the A  line between Howard Beach and the Rockaway Peninsula, and stations on the R  line between Bay Ridge-95th Street and Court Street from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Ghosts of summers past


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Phil Gilson walked past the now empty lots in his Breezy Point neighborhood, reflecting on how the beach community once was.

“That’s the disturbing thing. You look and you say, ‘Who used to live here?’ Even I don’t know where I am because all of the homes on the perimeter are gone, so all of the landmarks are gone,” he said.

Gilson said he couldn’t revisit the town destroyed by Sandy for months because “it was depressing.”

His own summer home of 43 years was washed away the night of the storm in October, “right off the foundation,” he said. It was torn down completely in April, and he still has no plan to rebuild. Gilson was there the day before it was demolished to collect anything he still needed.

“I was anxious about coming down,” he said.

After that day, he frequently returned throughout the summer to watch the rebuilding progress, though the “outstanding” Breezy Point summer he knew and loved wasn’t there.

“I’d come down over the summer, but I wouldn’t see anybody,” he said. “I would not see towels. I would not see hanging bathing suits.”

Gilson’s summer memories include those of a very close, tight-knit neighborhood, where “if you sneezed, somebody next door would say, ‘God Bless you,’” and “if you needed to go to the store 10 minutes away, it would take you an hour because you kept stopping to talk to people.”

“You can’t replace the camaraderie of the community,” he said.

For his own home, just two blocks past the fire zone where 135 homes were decimated, Gilson said he is waiting to hear if he will receive any city funds from the Build-it-Back program.

“It’s going to be a couple of years before we get back here,” he said.

Still, he enjoys going to his neighborhood, watching more and more houses pop up in vacant spaces.

“It’s very comforting,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Phil Gilson 

 

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