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Rockaway, Broad Channel residents struggle to do laundry

John Kim looks at a flood-damaged machine used to make a clothing rack rotate in his newly reopened business, Kim's Rainbow Cleaners on Beach Channel Drive. Photo by Karen Frantz
TimesLedger Newspapers

In the Rockaways and Broad Channel, two regions slowly inching toward normalcy after Hurricane Sandy devastated them more than a month ago, residents are struggling with a basic household task: doing the laundry.

“It’s the pits,” said Jeanne, who lives in Broad Channel and declined to give her last name.

She said she like many of her neighbors experienced flooding that wiped out her washer and dryer, and thus getting her laundry done was a challenge.

She said Broad Channel does not have a single Laundromat, and residents had pushed to bring a laundry truck to the neighborhood to no avail.

“So you just do the best you can,” she said, saying she and her husband were dropping their laundry off at a facility off the island on the way to work.

Meanwhile in the Rockaways, residents said they had lost their personal washers and dryers or their usual Laundromats were closed due to storm damage. Many people said they had to travel to open facilities far away from their homes to clean their clothes.

It is unclear whether any organized relief has or will be brought to the neighborhoods to ease laundry burdens. Soon after the storm City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) had tried to bring a Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry truck to the hurricane-affected areas, reaching out to Tide and the Red Cross, Loads of Hope’s partner organization.

But a spokesman for Ulrich, Rudy Giuliani, said both organizations claimed the other was responsible for dispatching the truck.

“Nobody can seem to nail it down,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Tide, Erin Serrano, said there are currently no plans to bring Loads of Hope to southern Queens and the decision where to mobilize the truck is based on need, the number of families displaced, access to water, whether there is an area of central access and other factors.

She said mobilizing the truck is often a joint decision between the Red Cross and Tide, but a spokesman for the Red Cross, Michael de Vulpillieres, said the aid organization is not involved in the decision-making process and only provides information to Tide about conditions on the ground.

One worker with New York Cares at an aid site on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 129th Street said he was hoping to work with the Rotary Club to bring in a free Laundromat unit for residents. But it was not known if and when that would happen.

In the meantime, residents have to make do. One man at a clothing giveaway at the corner of Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 87th Street last Thursday said he was taking a bus out to Brooklyn to do his laundry because his neighborhood Laundromats were still closed.

Another woman at an aid center on Cross Bay Boulevard and Rockaway Beach Boulevard said her apartment building’s laundry center was still disabled and the closest two Laundromats to her home were also out of commission.

“We find alternatives,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “It’s a crisis so we just have to deal with it.”

One Laundromat that was open was overwhelmed.

“After hurricane very busy,” said Tiffany Gao, owner of Quick Spin Laundromat, on Beach Channel Drive near the corner of Beach 116th Street. “Too busy. Never take a break.”

She said the store reopened Nov. 17, after she replaced parts of the flooded machines, and for the first few weeks she had to work overnight because so many people were dropping off their clothes. She said she hired an additional employee to help with the workload and in recent days the work seemed to be lighter.

The owner of the strip mall building renting space to the Laundromat, Al Rosenthal, said many other Laundromats in the area were down because machines were wiped out due to exposure to saltwater in the floods.

“Once the salt gets into the motors and stays there for a couple of days, that’s the end,” he said, adding that each motor costs about $500.

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

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