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Privately-Funded Program Helped 501 Sandy Victims Move Back Home

By Katie Honan | October 7, 2015 3:49pm
 Matti Eddy's lived in her Far Rockaway house for 40 years. She moved back in June 2015 after Hurricane Sandy with help from a privately-funded city program.
Matti Eddy's lived in her Far Rockaway house for 40 years. She moved back in June 2015 after Hurricane Sandy with help from a privately-funded city program.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

FAR ROCKAWAY — Mattie Eddy wasn't home when Hurricane Sandy came ashore, flooding the basement and the first floor of her two-family house.

"When I came back my daughter said, 'Ma, everything's at the front door," she said.

Ocean water, sludge and mud had rushed inside, and when the water receded, her possessions from 40 years living in the house on Beach 28th Street were scattered all around.

"Everything just floated," she said.

Eddy said she felt like the flood came through all over again when she began the process of filling out the pages of paperwork with her home insurance, and with some of the programs offered to her as a victim of the storm.

She wasn't eligible for Build It Back, because she didn't have flood insurance.

Her home insurance didn't pay her out anything, either. Her agent told her, "When one door closes, another opens," before he drove away, she said. 

Still, she persevered and eventually found help with the city's Neighborhood Revitalization NYC Home Repair Program, which was set up in September 2013 with Local Initiatives Support Corporation of New York City (LISC NYC) to assist homeowners like her.

The bulk of the program was funded by the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, which gave $12.5 million.

The Red Cross gave more than $4 million, and the Robin Hood Foundation gave $2.3 million. JP Morgan Chase gave $1 million, officials said.

Matti Eddy's kept many reminders of the storm in her home, like this water line near her kitchen. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

Homeowners from four of the five boroughs were referred by private agencies.

By the time it ended last month, the program helped 501 families move back home through major renovations.

"Their generosity has allowed hundreds of families to rebuild and recover," First Lady Chirlane McCray, the chair of the Mayor's Fund, said of the private donations. 

Matti Eddy outside her home in Far Rockaway, Queens, clutching the throw pillow given to her as a housewarming gift by First Lady Chirlane McCray. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

The first floor of Eddy's house was completely redone, and she lived in an upstairs apartment while the work was completed. 

She finally moved back downstairs in June, decorating it on her own with household items she'd salvaged after Hurricane Sandy.

She still lives with the constant reminders of the storm, like the nerve damage in her hands from spending so many nights in her freezing house, which was without heat for months.

One wall in her living room is painted a mud color, to remind her of the sludge she cleaned out.

And the framed photos on her walls, of the sunrise and sunset, are crinkled. When she was living upstairs without heat, she boiled water to stay warm, and the humidity damaged them.

"When I see the crinkles in the pictures, it reminds me that Sandy came," she said.

The art on Eddy's walls reminds her of the storm. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

She's ecstatic now to be back inside, with brand-new wood floors, a new kitchen and, as a gift from McCray, a throw pillow with Queens' official municipal seal.

She plans to make her second floor apartment available to people like her who are waiting for their homes to be repaired.

"That would be my way of helping the next person," she said. "I'm home, I'm so happy I'm home."