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Christmas comes to Rockaway

TimesLedger Newspapers

Photo gallery

Four-year-old Ariana Mochetta of Belle Harbor whispers her Christmas wishlist into Santa's ear during the Jingle Bell Rock Festival at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club. Photo by Christina Santucci
Youngsters (l.-r.) Camille, 9; William, 19 months; and Maggie Kelly, 6, sit with Santa. Photo by Christina Santucci
Evan Wade, 4, sits with Santa. Photo by Christina Santucci
Mike Rodriguez, pitmaster at House of ‘Que, which was slated to open in Hoboken but was pushed back because of the storm, slices brisket. Photo by Christina Santucci
Susan Setttani moved from Belle Harbor to Brooklyn after her basement apartment was wrecked by flooding. Photo by Christina Santucci
Geoff Rawling uses the front porch to paint during the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
A quilt is comprised of messages, including "God Bless American" and "Have Faith." Photo by Christina Santucci
A number of items including sports memorabilia were auctioned off. Photo by Christina Santucci
A man points to a sign in the window of the Belle Harbor Yacht Club, showing that the building was inspected after Hurricane Sandy and deemed safe. Photo by Christina Santucci
Geoff Rawling uses the front porch to paint during the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
Theresa Wade poses for a photo with Santa. Photo by Christina Santucci
(l.-r.) Adrienne Armstrong, Thai Williamson, Ray Luden and Adam Kuhn dish up chili in a tent. Photo by Christina Santucci
Tents shielded attendees and volunteers from the rain. Photo by Christina Santucci
Michael Sinensky, (l.) co-founder of, is joined by Ray Luden and his 13-year-old daughter Kendra. The Ludens brought five types of chili from Connecticut. Photo by Christina Santucci
Organizers estimated that more than 1,000 people attended the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
Santa, portrayed by Andrew Wainright, does his best air guitar impression as he heads for his sled with elf Alice Kaasik. Photo by Christina Santucci
Mike Rodriguez, pitmaster at House of ‘Que, which was slated to open in Hoboken but was pushed back because of the storm, slices brisket. Photo 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, which partnered with and 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 with friend Chris Miles, Evan Abel, Etan and Joe Fraiman and Jordan and Danny Brown.

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