Christmas comes to Rockaway

Christmas comes to Rockaway
By Christina Santucci

Bad weather couldn’t dampen the holiday spirit at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club last Sunday as more than 1,000 people partied to help the flock-ravaged Rockaways.

“Today was the first morale-boosting event in a hurricane zone and of course our luck …” said Michael Sinensky, raising his hands toward the cloudy sky.

Sinensky is one of the co-founders of FriendsofRockaway.org, which partnered with Funbars.com and iAdventure.com for the Jingle Bell Rockaway Festival.

Organizers said that more than 1,000 gifts and 100 Christmas trees were handed out to Rockaway residents, who were able to attend the event for free. Those who live outside of the peninsula were asked to buy a ticket for $29.

And residents were very appreciative of the effort to bring the community together a month after storm surge flooded the Rockaways.

Rockaway Park resident Susan Settani, whose basement apartment was destroyed during the storm, donned a light-up elf hat for the event. She has since moved to Brooklyn to be closer to work.

Theresa Wade’s duplex in Belle Harbor was flooded during Hurricane Sandy.

“This is wonderful,” she said, as her four-year-old son Evan visited with Santa. “This is a very tight-knit community. You are never going to find a community like this anywhere.”

Andrew Wainwright of Westchester donned his Santa suit to bring cheer to youngsters and those young in spirit.

Wainwright’s elf – and financee Alice Kaasik – said the Kris Kringle look alike saw an ad in the paper and offered his services.

“He had a gig yesterday in Manhattan but this is volunteer,” she said.

In addition to visits with Santa, attendees had the chance to sample several varieties of chili.

Connecticut resident Ray Luden had met Sinensky last month when he transported cooking supplies including grills to St. Francis de Sales, and he returned to the Rockaways two weeks later to bring down 84 trays of food prepared by restaurants and individuals in his Guilford neighborhood.

For Sunday’s event, Luden brought his 13-year-old daughter Kendra to haul 55 galloons of chili made at five different sites, including a firehouse.

“It’s fun to see how happy these people are,” Kendra Luden said.

Also on the menu was brisket made by pitmaster Mike Rodriguez from House of ‘Que, a restaurant that Sinensky planned to open in Hoboken but was forced to postpone because of Hurricane Sandy.

Sinensky, a Neponsit native who owns several Manhattan bars and businesses, founded FriendsofRockaway.org with friend Chris Miles, Evan Abel, Etan and Joe Fraiman and Jordan and Danny Brown.