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Sandy victims weigh future

Far Rockaway resident Al Kinsler adjusts a strap in the back of a truck after workers unload supplies to make repairs on his home. He has most recently rented apartment as he waits for his house to be fixed. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Two months after Hurricane Sandy bludgeoned the city with the new year at hand, residents in the hardest-hit areas of Queens were mixed on their outlook for 2013.

Al Kinsler was one of those who thought things were looking bright.

“I’m always optimistic,” said Kinsler, who lives on the corner of Beach 47th Street and Beach Channel Drive in the Rockaways.

Details of Kinsler’s story may be familiar to others living in the path of the storm’s surge, which caused soaring floodwaters that left a wake of destruction. He, like others, faced daunting water damage to his home and has had to live elsewhere as he applied for federal aid and made needed repairs.

Although he still cannot live in his house in its present condition, he said, he was working on the dwelling Saturday and was hopeful he could move back in within a month. And he said there are good signs around that his neighborhood was slowly inching back to life.

“I think we’ll bounce back,” he said. “I’ve seen [the neighborhood] at its worst and I’ve seen it at its best,” adding that its best was during the storm with so many people rallying to help others.

Broad Channel resident Robert Keith was also optimistic about 2013.

“I feel very good now that Rapid Repairs is here,” he said, referring to the program aimed at accelerating home repairs through a team of trade workers contracted by the city.

He said things were not looking as good about two weeks ago, when the program seemed to be poorly managed in the neighborhood. He said contractors would show up to make assessments or repairs late or not at all.

But at a recent community meeting to discuss the neighborhood’s concerns, Keith said an official from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office showed up and got an earful from residents about the disorganization.

“Somebody put a flame under the mayor’s rear end,” he said.

He said since then the program has been running smoothly and effectively, making him look hopeful to the future.

But others were angry at the government response to the storm and worried about what 2013 had in store.

“I’m very nervous about the new year,” said Bruno Rinaldi, owner of Bruno restaurant, at 158-22 Cross Bay Blvd. in Howard Beach.

The restaurant sustained nearly $400,000 in damages during the storm, including the complete destruction of freezers, an ice machine, refrigerators and its entire inventory. It was shut down for five weeks and is now operating at half capacity with many employees loyally working for free because there is no money to pay them.

Although Rinaldi immediately applied to the U.S. Small Business Administration for a loan and filed a claim with his insurance company, he said so far both have delayed payments and are projecting it could still be weeks before they send any money.

And without monetary aid soon, he said, the restaurant will have to close for good, putting his employees out of work.

“Two weeks from now, we don’t get help, we’re done,” he said, making a cutting motion across his neck.

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

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