Four Months After Sandy, Church Still Giving Money, Advice to Neighbors

2013phonepix 140Heather Dubin The Wayland on Avenue C

Four months after Sandy struck, a church that was flooded during the storm continues to offer financial aid to hobbled businesses, as well as counseling to locals still coping with stress and aggravation.

Since January, Graffiti Community Ministries, a Baptist church on East Seventh Street, has given out grants of about $500 each to 16 recipients. Nine more are currently in process, and there’s more where that came from.

“We still have about 50 percent of our grant available for distribution,” said Christy Dyer, an administrator of the church’s flood recovery committee.

John Johnson, a coordinator, said residents or business owners should bring receipts into the church at 205 East Seventh Street to see if they qualify for one of the reimbursement grants. “We have limited funds to help people out,” he said. “There’s money for space heaters, money for sheet rock to replace what they ripped out, and money for lost work.” Additionally, teams of volunteers are readily available for any necessary cleanup.

Zum SchneiderSuzanne Rozdeba Zum Schneider after Sandy.

At a meeting on Jan. 23, business owners shared storm repair updates and expressed angst about ongoing service issues with Verizon. “We’re still having problems with phones and internet,” said Mr. Johnson, “and there are 16 people without internet in the neighborhood.” One business owner said she had conducted office operations from a cell phone for the past four months, and had to switch providers to get a fax line up and running after losing a month of takeout orders. “I’m down to one landline from four,” said another business owner. As of last week, one phone line and the internet have been restored at the church, which experienced significant flooding during the hurricane.

Others worried about mold as spring approached: one business owner said she was still waiting for her landlord to demold the basement.

Some suggested that a social media campaign would help bring foot traffic to the far reaches of the East Village. “We have to brand this area. There’s no reason to come here,” said a local business owner who was having trouble paying the rent because her revenue had dropped to $200 to $300 per day since the storm.

The support group has been discontinued due to low turnout; however, information about individual counseling sessions can be found at the church. In addition, a mold awareness training seminar will be held at the church on March 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The flood recovery committee is a joint effort with Project Hope Crisis Counseling Program, a community support and networking group that originated after Hurricane Irene for disaster victims upstate. Its services moved to New York City and Long Island post-Sandy. The program is under the New York State Office of Mental Health, and is funded through a grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

According to Laci Beckett, project coordinator for Project Hope’s Federation Employment Guidance Services, Graffiti is one of about four groups that were approved for the grant in New York City.