Six months after Sandy, residents struggle with stubborn mold

(Credit: Getty)
(Credit: Getty)

When Hurricane Sandy hit Jackie Rogers’ home in Far Rockaway, the last thing she was worried about was a mold infestation. Situated on the island between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, she packed up and left her home of six years as the storm rolled in.

“I heeded Mayor Bloomberg’s words,” Rogers, who is in her 40s, told Metro. “I just got out.”

Now, six months after the storm hit, she’s still dealing with a mold infestation she never fathomed, one that’s gone from bad to worse even as she’s tried to battle it.

She’s not alone. A new joint report by six community organizations indicates that about 60 percent of homes, perhaps tens of thousands, suffering significant water damage during Sandy now are beleaguered with mold spores. On Tuesday, the report’s authors led community leaders on a walking tour of houses damaged by mold, through Staten Island and Far Rockaway, including a look at Roger’s house.

She seemed optimistic that including her house would help bring attention to the issue in her neighborhood.

She said she and her brothers returned to her 1,532-square-foot coastal blue and white home in early November, to gut the soaked drywall, rip out the sodden beige carpet and trash the sopping furniture. And though she and her family acted quickly on the road to rebuilding the bungalow, the mold still set in. Even after she hired someone to take care of the problem in December, she said that by February, “There were more mold spores than when I started.”

In January, after significant media attention was brought to the issue, a mold remediation program began. Yet, though the federal government has begun stepping in to help pay for remediation, funding reportedly does not extend to mold contamination on exterior walls, including under siding.

“Even though my walls were gutted inside, the insurance says they can’t pay for the thick mold on the outside of my home,” Rogers said.

The New York Times reported in March that although mold may contribute to respiratory problems, there is no conclusive evidence that it is toxic. Yet politicians and community organizers have consistently pointed to the residual respiratory problems following the 9/11 World Trade Center collapse, using that as an example of long-term Sandy-mold potential.

The organizations responsible for the new report, The Alliance for a Greater New York, Community Voices Heard, Faith in New York, Make the Road NY, New York Communities for Change, and Voices of Community Activists and Leaders NY, are recommending a broadened awareness campaign to bring attention to the issue. They also recommend allocating funds specifically for mold and punishing landlords who do not remedy the issue.

“It is absolutely inexcusable that this is still a problem six months after a major hurricane’s flood waters have receded,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “We’re showing that the city’s efforts, however well-intentioned, have ultimately been unsuccessful in addressing the Sandy mold crisis.”


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