Religious leaders and elected officials in the Rockaways want the city to add mold remediation to the Rapid Repairs program dispatched to help homeowners recover from the ravages of Sandy
Christmas, the most joyous of times, is around the corner. But thousands of Far Rockaway residents will have little to celebrate. Seven weeks after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York, 11,000 of them still lack heat, hot water, electricity and effective public assistance.
Nothing has changed for Far Rockaway residents Jorge Gonzalo, 66, an Army veteran, and his mother, Pura Gonzalo, 89, one week after we first told their story: they are still enduring darkness, cold weather and official indifference. Their main concern is not that they have to light candles at night or turn on the stove to fight the cold, but that their basement has become infested with mold.
“I am worried we are coughing,” Pura said. “Jorge tried to clean as much as he could with Clorox, but the mold is now all over the house. He is not in good health and I am afraid he will get worse.”
And that is a real possibility for the Gonzalos and thousands of others whose homes are mold infested and who can neither afford to pay for its removal or get assistance from the city.
In fact, mold has become one of the biggest health hazards after Sandy.
Volunteers working with the Met Council, a social service agency, found that only one in five families is hiring professional mold cleaning services, not surprising given that mold remediation can cost several thousands of dollars.
The rest are either painting over the mold or purchasing cheap and ineffective cleanup kits. Until local and federal relief agencies come up with a solution, people who, like the Gonzalos, can’t afford to have the mold removed are being left to live in toxic homes.
Religious leaders and elected officials are calling on Mayor Bloomberg to add mold remediation to the city’s Rapid Repairs program, which was established to help residential property owners affected by Sandy make emergency repairs including restoration of heat, power and hot water.