Rebuilding a life and home after Hurricane Sandy

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Linda Gold in her home - Rockaway, Queens

Linda Gold’s husband died the night of Hurricane Sandy trying to save their home from the storm. “I had lost my husband and my house was in ruins,” she says. Even while facing unimaginable loss, Gold was about to begin a nightmarish journey to try to rebuild her home and her life.

Gold, with her husband Richard, had saved for a decade to purchase their two-story, two-bedroom home in the Belle Harbor section of Rockaway, Queens in 1979. The house was just one block from the waterfront.

Over their years together in the home, she and her husband had weathered many storms, but Gold decided to stay with a friend in Brooklyn as Hurricane Sandy advanced toward the city in October 2012. Her husband made the fateful decision to stay behind to secure their house and help others.

While struggling with her grief from the loss of her husband, she was unsure how to cope with the challenge of rebuilding her home. “My husband had always paid the bills, taken care of the insurance, and those type of things,” Gold says.

The reconstruction of Gold’s home was halted mid-way through excavation of her basement due to a complication with a permit. Officials told her she might need to forfeit her basement apartment, which she depended on for income — without it, she would have surely be unable to pay her mortgage and possibly fall into foreclosure.

She turned to NYLAG, a partner in the Center for NYC Neighborhoods’ legal counseling program for homeowners affected by Sandy. The Center, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations and partner organizations like NYLAG, has been the lead organization counseling homeowners whose houses were damaged by the storm. These services help homeowners secure construction assistance and overcome tough recovery challenges, including foreclosure, the need for temporary housing, and insurance. Over 3,500 cases have been resolved through the Center’s program for homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy.

With help from her legal counselor at NYLAG and support from the Center, Gold won her appeal and obtained a special permit to kick-start the reconstruction of her home. “They helped me so much,” Gold says, praising in particular attorney William Friedman, who heads NYLAG’s Storm Response unit.

Gold praises the contractor and crew reworking the electricity in her house, repairing and repainting walls, and rebuilding her basement apartment from which she says she has lost approximately $30,000 in rental income over the years while the rebuild was in limbo.

But the challenges of rebuilding her life have left her undeterred. “I’m hopeful and optimistic, while still waiting to see the end of all this chaos,” she says.

To learn more about whether you’re in the floodplain, your flood risk and about flood insurance rates, go to FloodHelpNY.org

Read more about The Center for NYC Neighborhoods work, as well as more stories like Linda Gold’s on the Center’s Annual Report.

PHOTO:  In this photo, Linda Gold looks out her window of her home in the Rockaway, Queens borough of New York.

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