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Staten Island Residents Still Face Mold Problems Six Months After Sandy

By Nicholas Rizzi | May 8, 2013 7:52am
 Six months after Hurricane Sandy, many residents in Midland Beach and other neighborhoods hit by the storm still face mold problems.
Mold in Midland Beach Homes
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MIDLAND BEACH — Manuel Yupa thought he took all the right steps to remove the mold from his Lincoln Avenue home after Hurricane Sandy flooded it.

Yupa, 50, who has lived there for 10 years, ripped the home's siding off, cleaned underneath it, and got rid of all the mold — but his next-door neighbor did not.

As the weather gets warmer, Yupa worries that all of his hard work will be for nothing and the mold from his neighbor's house will spread back to his home.

“It has been six months, working and working from the bottom up,” he said. “We need to do something about this.”

More than six months after the superstorm hit the city, many residents still have mold in their homes, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding.

“Still in our communities, mold is a huge and pressing problem,” said Melissa McCrumb from Make the Road New York, one of the organizations in the alliance. “We’ve been very frustrated with the continuing mold problems in our communities.”

The coalition of labor unions and community organizations conducted phone or door-to-door surveys about mold in nearly 700 houses in storm-damaged areas in Staten Island and the Rockaways.

The report found that almost two-thirds of the homes polled had visible mold and many residents who attempted to remediate it had it return.

“This is an ongoing problem that they’re trying to resolve and they can’t get rid of,” McCrumb said.

Many residents also reported sicknesses possibly related to mold problems, and 25 percent of homes surveyed had members with symptoms that could be connected to mold, including coughing, headache, muscle soreness and fatigue, the survey found.

Iztac Mandiagon-Rosendo, whose rented home on Colony Avenue still has storm-related mold, said she’s been sick since she tried to clean the mold herself.

“I had to go to the hospital,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter. “I had problems with my skin and also with my throat.

“The doctors told me that I still cannot live there,” she continued. “Because of this I have had enormous medical bills.”

The report said that many who still live in houses with mold are renters and immigrants whose landlords are absent or unresponsive to their request to get rid of the mold.

And for those who have tried to do it themselves, more than 90 percent of the families surveyed had the mold return. McCrumb said many are unaware of the free remediation services offered by the city.

Kelly Lotz, 43, is concerned that her landlord hasn't removed the mold in front of her rented Moreland Avenue home — but she's even more worried about the houses next door.

Both houses on either side of her home have not had their mold removed, and the one on the left has been untouched since the storm.

“I’m afraid to open my windows,” she said. “I’m afraid to sit in the yard with my kids.”

The house to her left was abandoned by her elderly neighbor, who evacuated in the storm and hasn’t been back. The back doors are gone, and the side windows facing Lotz's home are destroyed.

Lotz said the air filters in her attic she installed in December were black when she removed them recently, and the mold from the home can be smelled from her backyard.

“When you can smell mold, there’s something wrong,” she said.