Home Is Where the Rubble Is
Balancing on wooden planks snaking across the skeletal beams that provide a makeshift platform for his floorless home, Earl Moody relies on a generator to power an array of electric tools as he guts and rebuilds the slate-blue cottage his wife owns on Moreland Street.
“Saltwater’s nasty, it’s corrosive. Even after the water’s gone, the salt eats away at the house,” says Moody, a sixty-year-old mechanic with wispy yellow-gray hair and a sage’s beard. “These sidings will have to go, the salt’s eating away under it.”
The ocean tried to swallow Midland Beach one hundred days ago. The water receded from the marshy residential stretch on northeast Staten Island within hours of the storm. But, like the salt that has inundated itself within the structures, slowly corroding metal and wood, the uncertainty left behind on the ravaged blocks of Cape Cod style family homes silently wreaks havoc on displaced residents’ morale.
Wearing a Duke-blue driving jacket, Moody received an initial check from FEMA after Sandy, but is continually discouraged when he visits the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center. He has been living at his daughter’s place a few blocks away, and says he can’t get a clear answer on what happens from here.
“Just drop the lumber in the street and I’ll rebuild the house. I don’t want to wait around for this Rapid Repair,” says Moody, referring to a New York City program to help residential owners make post-Sandy repairs. “I’ll do it myself.”
That pledge echoes the ethos of a borough built on the public service of firemen, police, teachers and construction workers. The people are used to work, Moody says. But while displaced residents try to return to their multi-generational communities, many wrestle with the uncertainty of federal and city aid and the risk of rebuilding in a flood zone.
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