Howard and Hamilton beaches recover from Sandy
by Andrew Shilling
Oct 24, 2013 | 441 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pastor Steve Roser and his wife Sharon
Pastor Steve Roser and his wife Sharon
slideshow
Roger Gendron
Roger Gendron
slideshow
Waves were crashing on Roger Gendron’s second floor deck during the peak of the floods during Hurricane Sandy last October.

He vividly recalls boats lifting from their trailers and careening across his front yard, cars parked on a hill across from his house were flooded and dozens of houses along his block being overtaken by the storm.

Gendron, the president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, in the months before the storm said his community has significantly grown and bonded together since that day.

In the days following the storm, which he said surge waters reached as high as the second floor of many homes in his neighborhood, Hamilton Beach lost phone service and took nearly 20 days for power to be restored.

“Aside from local media, we received a lot of help from other local communities,” Gendron said. “We were basically adopted by Glendale.”

Groups like the Knights of Columbus and the Glendale Kiwanis Club brought down supplies and clothes to support the families of Hamilton and Howard beaches.

Gendron said food was ushered into the community from Resorts World, Phil Goldfeder’s office and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation supplied every resident of Hamilton Beach with $600 gift cards.

“In the beginning, it was just one on top of the other and it was a little overwhelming,” he said.

Today he says there are several homes and businesses in the community with structural damage, a need for surface paving on several main thoroughfares, and many homes have yet to even be opened and some that have been abandoned.

The main problem, he said, was the inflation of flood insurance rates and limited feedback from The Red Cross and support from FEMA.

“There is still a lot,” he said. “I’ve begged through so many agencies for the city to issue elevation certificates to every home that was damaged by Sandy.”

Until then, Gendron says many of the residents in Hamilton Beach will continue their rebuilding efforts.

On Howard Beach, to the west over the 102nd Street Bridge, Pastor Steve Roser and his wife are have finally finished their rebuilding efforts at the Howard Beach Assembly of God at 15831 99th St.

Even while his church is two avenues from water in the Hawtree Basin and four blocks from the Shellbank Basin, floods still managed to rise nearly five feet in the basement. Water even found its way to the sanctuary, rising three feet and damaging just about everything in its path in an area that wasn’t currently in a flood zone.

“Virtually all moveable real estate was destroyed,” Roser said.

While many residents had a hard time getting enough FEMA recovery to rebuild and cut the costs of filing for elevation estimates, Roser said the church was cut out of the equation.

“We applied (for FEMA funding) because we were told to,” said Roser’s wife Sharon.

While the couple lives above the church, they were told that FEMA could not cover them unless there was damage to their house.

Aside from their problems with government issued financial assistance, they still received nearly $92,000 in aid from other churches, residents and other donors to help rebuild, along with the manpower of hundreds of volunteers. Psalms Church in Ozone Park and other Assembly of God churches were on the long list that helped to replace the chairs, pews, rugs as well as new tiles and the kitchen in the basement.

“We sent out pictures of the church to our Christmas list, but we never asked for anything,” he said. “We really felt that God didn’t want us asking for anything…but we do believe that if you seek first the kingdom of God, then material things will be added.”

Roser and the church continued to send checks to support their missionaries overseas.

“We just continued to support the missionaries, believe that God’s going to provide for us,” Roser said. “We stand as people with much stronger faith than we had previously.”

NY State Senator Joseph Addabbo said it was vital for the churches to get back on thir feet, even though they are some of the few establishments that fell through the cracks of government assistance.

“They still found a way to get back on their feet and we appreciate it because, especially the religious institutions, are community partners,” he said. “They open their doors whenever we ask for a venue for a community meeting or a town hall.”

As for the community, Addabbo said there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before everyone is back on their feet, however he is confident that residents of Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach are resilient and will continue to stay strong.

“A year later, this is an issue that’s going to be with us for a very long time,” Addabbo said. “We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.”
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