Boro residents may get city help removing mold

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Karen Frantz

Some Queens homeowners who are battling mold after Hurricane Sandy ravaged their houses may see some relief through a new $15 million initiative sponsored by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and two nonprofits helping with recovery efforts . But some borough houses of worship contend the plan falls short.

The program, which will be administered by Neighborhood Revitalization NYC and funded through private donations made to the Mayor’s Fund, the American Red Cross and the Robin Hood Foundation, will remove mold in about 2,000 homes in neighborhoods hit hardest by the storm.

It will also run workshops in affected communities to teach homeowners and relief volunteers how to get rid of mold and will hand out thousands of free mold supply kits.

“Although mold is not a serious health threat for most people, it is important to remove it properly to avoid its return,” said city Department of Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “These efforts will help many affected New Yorkers to do that.”

Some Far Rockaway residents said their homes were overtaken by mold at a news conference held by labor union members in January, while some medical professionals at the conference said they had seen mold problems at homes across the peninsula following the storm.

But a network of more than 50 houses of worship in the borough, Queens Congregations United for Action, said the initiative might barely make a dent in the total number of houses that need help.0

“Based on what we’ve heard from people living in the communities hardest hit by Sandy, the mayor’s promise to address mold in 2,000 homes is only a start,” said QCUA Executive Director Joseph McKellar.

“Mayor Bloomberg has said there are as many as 80,000 homes with water damage in New York City as a result of Sandy, so it’s critical that this program be significantly expanded to address the serious threat that mold presents to the health and safety of many Sandy victims,” he said.

Mold can be hazardous to people with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases, and it can worsen conditions such as asthma.

Although residents may use aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for mold cleanup, the federal government does not directly fund mold remediation and does not reimburse the city for the cost of removing mold in homes.

The mayor’s office said homes with the highest need for mold remediation will be referred to the program by local officials and nonprofits engaged in recovery efforts. The program will be free to homeowners who receive help and mold cleanup will be performed by private contractors and nonprofits.

State Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) praised the program, saying some residents were struggling to pay for pricey mold remediation, and cleanup was being carried out improperly in some cases.

“Now with the summer season approaching, mold can have a very dangerous effect on our health and environment,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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