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Hurricane Sandy - Destroyed East Rockaway House Updates

 By Paul Rudoff on Apr. 10, 2013 at 11:00 PM , Categories: Personal , Tags:
Updated on March 10, 2017

UPDATE - In an effort to make the photo documentation of the house trips easier to find, here are the quick links to all Facebook photo galleries about the East Rockaway house. The November 2, 2012 gallery is NEW (posted July 17, 2013), as I have finally decided to make public all of the photos I took on that first visit back to the house after the storm. Previously, only four of these photos were made public.

Fri. November 2, 2012 (first visit to the house since the storm)
Wed. April 10, 2013 (first time inside the house since Jan. 22nd)
Mon. May 27, 2013
Fri. June 28, 2013
Fri. September 13, 2013
Fri. November 8, 2013 (high resolution)
Fri. May 23, 2014
Fri. March 13, 2015
Wed. June 10, 2015
Wed. October 14, 2015
Wed. December 7, 2016
I went back to my old house in East Rockaway today (Wed. April 10, 2013) to find that things were a little different since I was last there a few months ago.

Outside, it looks pretty nice, deceptively masking the horrors that await inside. Some yellow flowers have started to grow in the front yard. How pretty! The brown garbage can you see on the front porch was put there by someone between January 22nd (when I was last inside the house) and mid-February (when I was last outside the house). Inside are all of the newspapers that were cluttering up the front lawn. The woman who used to live in the house behind ours (the garage was converted into a house) subscribed to the newspaper, and never bothered to cancel that subscription. The garbage can is nearly filled to the top with two and a half months worth of daily newspapers!


Since the front door hasn't worked since mid-November 2012 (it's swelled shut), I have to go in through the back entrance. That makes the kitchen and the make-shift "boiler room" contained therein the first room I see upon entering. I was rather surprised to find that the gas heating unit was no longer there.


No, thieves didn't take it. Otherwise they would have taken all of the pipes and other metals lying around the house. When my family "officially" left the house on January 22, 2013, we called the landlord's lawyer and representative, who works in the neighboring town, to let him know that we've taken everything we wanted out of the house, and that they can begin proceedings to demolish it. We also told him about the newly-installed gas heating unit, and that we would like for him to have it removed so that it could be used in the new house that will be built on the property.

I, honestly, didn't think he would bother to have it removed. We made a few calls and found out that he had it removed by the same plumbing company that installed it on June 27, 2012. The plumbing company said that they came and took it out over two months ago, which makes me wonder if it was already gone when I last visited the *outside* of the house in mid-February. Now I really wish I had gone inside that day. Unfortunately, the guy who runs the plumbing company told us that the unit was frozen and split from the cold, which means that it's no longer usable. He said that all of the pipes were frozen, and that they could not find the water turn-off valve - which is kinda odd, since they had to have found it when they installed the unit. He said that they were too busy to go get the unit the first time the landlord's lawyer/representative asked them to go. The second time he asked was when they went and got it out. I wonder, if they would have went and got it out when the landlord's lawyer/representative first asked them, if the unit would have been usable. The plumber said that the house will be knocked down shortly.

The really sad part of this is that *I* paid $4,175.00 to the plumbing company to have the house converted from oil to gas heating because we couldn't afford to continue getting ripped off by the Meenan Oil Company. They were auto-delivering +/-$400 of oil every 3 weeks, even though they knew we couldn't afford it, and there's no possible way we could have been using enough oil for them to be delivering that much oil that often. Rather then try to get us help to pay the bill (the government's HEAP program only gave us a once-a-year payment of approx. $700 near the end of the year), they chose to do everything they could to make the bill larger and larger. After a few months of not being able to pay the bill, when were *we're* finally able to give them $100, they chose to only apply $75 to our account balance, and put the other $25 towards a "late payment fee". Meenan couldn't just be happy that they finally got a payment, period! They had to show, yet again, that they were sabotaging any efforts we made to make the account balance smaller. Even after *they* terminated our account a few months later for non-payment, they chose to tack on a $400 "early termination fee" to their final bill. Right up until the very end they were doing more and more to jack that bill up higher and higher.

The final straw was in April 2012 when the oil boiler broke down, and they wouldn't come to honor their commitment to fix it (as part of our contract with them) unless we gave them over $1,000 towards the $2,500-ish account balance. (All that needed to be done was for the oil line to be bled; a standard job that takes only a few minutes.) They wanted my family to freeze in our house and take cold showers. Ironically, the company tagline is, "We're All About Warmth". At this point, I had enough of this BS. We lived there for 23 years, and thought we'd be living there for many more. We couldn't go on paying overpriced oil bills for the next few decades. So, even though we don't own the house, I was willing to pay to convert the house from oil to gas heating (we already paid a small gas bill for the stove), even though it meant that the item I was paying for would technically belong to the landlord and be part of the house. I eventually found a plumbing company who would do the job for $4,175, which wasn't much more than we owed Meenan Oil Company (their final bill, with the BS "early termination fee", was a bit over $3,000). I felt that the money would be much better spent on the long-term (oil to gas conversion) than the short term (paying off Meenan), especially since the Meenan bill would go right back up into the thousands of dollars come next Winter when they start delivering more and more oil again.

I worked out a very fair and reasonable payment plan with the boss/owner of the plumbing company, and the gas heating unit was installed on June 27, 2012. Hurricane Sandy evicted us from the house on October 29, 2012. My family only got FOUR MONTHS use from a unit that cost OVER FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS! We only got to use it for hot water heating as Winter hadn't yet (or just barely) arrived by October 29th. If we would have been in the house just one month longer, we would have been able to try out how well it worked for space heating. Even sadder than how little use my family got from an item I paid over four thousand dollars for, is the fact that FEMA won't reimburse me for the cost since we didn't own the house the unit was installed in. With only four months use, the value shouldn't have degraded very much, so I should have gotten close to $4,000 from FEMA.

Now that the harsh winter destroyed the gas heating unit, no one is going to be able to benefit from the money I spent.

Sorry for that long backstory/rant. I kinda needed to get that off my chest, and share that tale of woe with all those who would listen. Moving on...

I made my way into my old bedroom to see how badly the mold has overtaken the place. It wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, but as you can see in the photo below, the mold has climbed up the wall well past the top of the desk.


What I wasn't expecting...Hell, I would never have anticipated this in a million years, is the HUGE FUCKING HOLE in the ceiling of my old bedroom. At no point, in any of my previous visits, did I see any indication that the ceiling was in danger of collapsing. If anything, it was the dining room ceiling that showed signs of collapsing (more on that in a little bit).


Upon further inspection, you can see the support beams and what may be the original wooden roof.


Right underneath the hole are pieces of the ceiling plasterboard and LOTS of silver flakes that we believe are some type of insulation. The "floor" in the attic crawl space is covered with these flakes.


Ironically, the ceiling in the dining room, is no more sagging down than it was on January 22nd. If there were any ceiling in the house that looks like it *should* collapse, it's this one.


I plan to update this blog post every two months with more photos and information until such time that a new house is built on the property. I may eventually rework this blog post into an article called "The Evolution & Devolution Of A House", chronicalling the changes made to the house from 1989-2013. I'll need to scour the family photo albums (most survived the hurricane) to find photos to scan in. If/when I get a new video capture card, I'll see if I can pull any frames from the few family home movie VHS tapes that survived.

That's one of my long-term plans, of course. My short-term plans are a little more important: I finally got a new "permanent" computer, but I'll need to buy some parts to "finish it off". Plus make sure I have all of the drivers, put together a spec list and familiarize myself with what the computer shop put inside it, transfer all of my files, install all of my programs, go through all of my files to see what I need/don't need, etc. At some point in doing all of that, I'll put up a "We're Back" blog post to announce the new Spook Central staff, announce that I'm 100% back (even though I might not be around much), and to show off some photos of the new computer and new "Spook Central Headquarters". Of course, I still need to take those photos :-)

That's not counting the salvaging project I need to finish (family photos, yearbooks and diplomas, and HUNDREDS of disc-based media). There's also lots of boxes of dry stuff to sort through. And other various things to do around the house.

Last week and this week were/are very busy for me, so it didn't help that it's during this time the computer shop got done with the computer (as opposed to three weeks ago when I expected for it to be done). I got it Tuesday, and it's still sitting in a bag on the floor because I haven't had the time to do anything with it. Hopefully I'll get to it this weekend. It also didn't help that I sprained my ankle this past Friday (April 5, 2013) while at a live TNA Wrestling event. Yeah, everything gets piled on me all at once :-)

There are so many things I need to do right now, I really don't know where to start first!

May 27, 2013:
We went back to East Rockaway today (Mon. May 27, 2013) for the Memorial Day festivities. While in town, I decided to go see if the old house was still standing. Surprisingly, it was. Well, most of it, anyway. The ceiling in the dining room that was sagging since November finally fell.


For the most part, everything else in the house was the same as it was on April 10th. Since I realized that I never took photos of the mostly-empty house, I decided to quickly go into each room and snap some pics. Eventually I'll use these to make comparisons with the photos I took immediately after the hurricane. All of the photos I took today can be found in this Facebook gallery.

The only other change of note was that someone put a wooden board (with bricks on top to hold it down) over the opening on the side of the house that leads to the crawlspace under the house. (The house has no basement and was built on cinder blocks back in 1920, from what I know.) The hurricane washed away the trapdoor that was there, leaving a big "hole" there ever since. I suspect the landlord had someone put this board there as a safety precaution since he could still get sued should someone venture onto the property and fall into that hole.


While we we there, our old next door neighbor came out to say hello. He told us that a surveyor had come to our old house within the past few weeks to measure the size and elevation of the property. I think he said it was an astonishing 40 feet x 100 feet... astonishing, because it doesn't look that big. He said that someone put a bid in for the property, which indicates to me that our old landlord is selling the property itself, and has no interesting in rebuilding on it himself. After all the money he spent on repairs from the flooding brought by Hurricane Irene in August 2011, I can't say that I blame him for washing his hands of the place. Who's to say it won't get flooded again this year?

I'd imagine that whoever buys the property will be the one to pay for the demolition of the two houses on the property (the garage in back was converted into a house decades ago). If they're smart, they'll haul in a lot of dirt and raise the property up to match or exceed those on both sides. That property is the only one on the block that is *below* street level. You can imagine how much fun it was being there when it rained heavily. We had our own moat!

In all likelihood, the buyer of the property will build a new house (perhaps two-floor, two-family) and then sell it to someone else. Whomever is stupid enough to be the final owner of the property may find out the hard way why it's not such a great place to live...and not just because it's down the block from a sewage treatment plant. (Yes, the hurricane even cause that plant to fail, leaving quite a mess in some people's already-damaged houses. Thankfully, not mine.)

Anyway, I'm going back to East Rockaway on Friday June 28th. I'll stop by the old house to see if anything's changed, but if it hasn't, I won't bother taking any photos or doing a write-up. Since I go back to the town every two months for a doctor's appointment, I should be visiting again in August or September. I'll be surprised if there will still be a house anymore on the property by then.

June 28, 2013:
I went back to the old house today (Fri. June 28, 2013) while in town for a doctor's appointment. Not much has changed, though the property is starting to show signs of vacancy with the overgrowth on the front and back lawns and on the sides of the house. I took a few more photos inside and out, which are posted to a Facebook gallery. It looks like the living room ceiling, above where the old HDTV was, is the next candidate for falling down. Also, someone or something broke the trapdoor covering that was put on the side of the house a few months ago.

The only thing left of value in the house are a hundred or so home-recorded videotapes dating back to 1989 in the living room and the dining room. The tapes at the highest points did not get ruined; which should be the top two or three rows in the living room. I would love to take all of the undamaged tapes, but unfortunately I have no easy way to gather them all up and transport them over here; and if I did, I'd have to keep them in storage in the attic because I have no room for them elsewhere. Oh, and does anyone know where I could re-buy this late 1990s WWF Attitude Era talking wall clock? I had to leave it on the floor of the old house because it's not in the best of shape.

September 13, 2013:
Another visit to the old house today while in town for a bi-monthly doctor's appointment. Very little has changed. Someone is using the driveway as their own personal parking space, and the landlord had someone come to mow the overgrown lawn. Why couldn't he pay someone to do this while we lived there?!? We had to do the lawn maintenance ourselves. There's a tree growing in the backyard that was never there before. We noticed a crack in the kitchen ceiling that makes us think it'll be the next to fall. As we left, we noticed that the house next door (the brown one to the right of this photo) may also be abandoned as the lawn is a bit overgrown in spots and there were a bunch of notices and mail (including a green card from LIPA) shoved into their front door. As always, more photos can be found in the Facebook gallery.

November 8, 2013:
Surprisingly, the house is still standing. I really expected for it to have been demolished months ago when the weather got warmer. I know that the old landlord isn't interested in rebuilding, so I can only assume he's had a hard time finding a sucker to buy the property. I really wish someone would have bought the place and demolished the house already as it would give an ending to that chapter of the hurricane story.

I went into the house today for what will probably be the last time. The inside of the house hasn't changed much in the past few months, so there's really not much left to document. There isn't anything left inside to take, other than a hundred or so home-recorded videotapes that were above the waterline (the thousands below it aren't worth taking)...and I've been tossing around in my head whether they're worth taking or not. I mean it's not like there's much room for them here at my new place. They'd just end up in boxes shoved in the attic with everything else. I supposed I kinda already made my decision by the fact that I haven't taken them (aside from a random five tapes) in the past 10 months since the last big item removal.

Since I probably won't go into the old house anymore, I decided to take my good camera and snap a lot of high-resolution photos with flash. I tried to replicate as many of the low-resolution no-flash photos I took with the iPod Touch over the past year. I also took photos of various things in the house as these photos will document the little details for myself and my family that will, over time, get cloudier and cloudier in our minds. In total, there are 74 high-resolution photos which have been uploaded to a Facebook gallery.

May 23, 2014:
Other than one brief visit inside to retrieve a few videotapes on Fri. January 24, 2014, I haven't been to the old house since November of last year and I really wasn't planning on going back. There's really nothing left to see and no reason to go inside. However, since I was in the old neighborhood, I decided to take a quick peek at the outside. I was rather surprised to find that the electric company cut the wires that were going to the house and removed the meter. One part of the wire is dangling above the side of the porch, and the part they snipped off is sitting on the porch (why they didn't take it is beyond me). Below is a before and after comparison using photos taken on November 8, 2013 and today (click to enlarge).


I didn't notice this on location, but as I was looking through photos to make the above comparison, I noticed that someone removed the American flag sticker that was on the front screen door window in the lower right corner. I don't know why anyone would bother to peel it off. It was old, color faded, and probably didn't come off easily.


The only other thing of note outside the old house was the wood was replaced over the crawlspace trap door again (comparison below), some duct tape was put over the back screen door (I think the next door neighbor did this because the unlatched screen door probably banged around a lot on windy days), and the old landlord had someone mow the lawn again (the neighbor probably complained about overgrowth).


After checking out the old house, I went down the block to take photos of some old historic buildings on Front Street that were demolished. In the Facebook gallery you can find photos of the former locations of Dock's Dog House, Skippy's Bait & Tackle, and Jack & Jill Montessori School. Also, work was *finally* completed on the historic building that used to be The Wild Duck Inn, and later Pier 101 (it's now going to be called Althouse 1868, a nod to the street its on and the year it was probably built). Work stopped on this building a year or two *before* Hurricane Sandy struck, presumably the owner ran out of money, so it's nice to see the renovation finally near completion. I think this is the only historic building now left at the waterfront.

March 13, 2015:
I wasn't planning on doing any more updates to this page, but I was in East Rockaway on other business, so I figured I'd make a quick stop at the old house. Not much has changed since I was last there almost a year ago. The most interesting thing is that the front right window (in the living room) is missing the venetian blind and there are large rips in the window screen. It was not like this the last time I was there, but it doesn't look like anyone entered the house (the duct tape on the back door hasn't been altered). The dining room window is opened enough that an animal (like a cat, squirrel, possum, etc.) could have entered the house and torn up that screen, and in doing that, caused the blind to fall. I did not go into the house to see if the blind is on the floor, but if someone was going to steal it, they wouldn't have just stolen that one.

A hole in the cement block foundation at the front of the house has been covered up with bricks, and bricks have been place by the back door, for whatever reason.

When we lived in the house, the next door neighbor would constantly extend the drain pipe on his house so it would dump the rain water into our driveway. Being that our property was below street level, this constantly caused a large pool of water to form in our driveway. He's back to his old tricks, but since we don't live there anymore, we don't care about it anymore.

As always, all images have been uploaded to a Facebook gallery.

June 10, 2015:
I made a quick stop by the old house while in East Rockaway today, and was surprised to find a large sign staked to the front lawn. It read, in full...


The zoning board of appeals of this Village of East Rockaway will hold a public hearing to consider the application of Todd Dickel (agent) for 9 Fifth Avenue LLC (owner) on the 22nd day of April, 2015 at 8:00 pm in the Village Hall located at 376 Atlantic Avenue, East Rockaway, NY.

Application for variance from the provisions of Chapter 288 of the code of the Village of East Rockaway to construct a two family home calls for a front yard setback of 15' where 25" is the minimum required, a street frontage of 40.6' is the minimum required, and a lot area of 4,000 square feet where 6,000 square feet is the minimum required.

Copies of the application and all related documentation is available for inspection at Village Hall. All interested persons will be given the opportunity to be heard at the above mentioned time and place.

Zoning Board of Appeals
Village of East Rockaway
376 Atlantic Avenue
East Rockaway, NY 11518
(516) 887-6310

As far back as 2013, I heard a rumor that the old landlord wanted to knock the house down and build a two-family house in its place, but nothing ever became of it. I guess after failing to sell the property itself over the past two years, he's gonna go forth with the plan to build a new house there. I doubt that he'll get any renters since many of the houses in the vicinity are vacant/abandoned or have been put up for sale after the effects of the hurricane.

October 14, 2015:
I was in my old town today and figured I'd see if my old house is still there. Surprisingly, it was. The only significant different from four months ago is that a real estate agent's sign was posted in the front yard. It notes that the LAND is for sale, not the house itself.

The listing on the real estate agent's site notes that the old landlord is asking $225,000 for the 4,268-square foot property, which has a yearly real estate tax of $7,980. Now that I know what the landlord was paying in taxes, I know that he made his money back in just six months of our rent. The other six months of the year were profit for him.

December 7, 2016:
I checked on the old house today, as I am wont to do when I'm in my old town for other reasons. I last checked it six months ago, but there was nothing to report. Today, there was.

For starters, the real estate agent's sign that was posted in the front yard last year is now gone. I just checked the listing on the real estate agent's site and it indicates that the property has been "sold and closed". The old landlord didn't get the $225,000 he was asking for last year. He got a mere $115,000, which is almost half of his original asking price. I guess he's happy to get anything for that property at this point and to be rid of the place after four years.

The lush grass on the front lawn was replaced with a heaping helping of dirt. I don't know if this has anything to do with preparations for demolishing the house.

I peeked inside the front window and everything is just as it was four years ago, other than the curtains and blinds no longer being there. I presume they fell off from something, or someone, going through the window, which no longer has the screen attached to it.

The most significant change since my last report is that someone has broken into the house through the back door. I found the knob completely broken off, and the door left ajar. The knob, and the lock that was in it, were left lying on the back steps. Whether someone broke in legally or illegally is not known to me. The landlord's lawyer, whose office is in the next town over from the house, was given the keys when we left. So, there was no need for someone to break in. Perhaps he lost the keys, or whomever needed to go inside (a utility company?) didn't know who had them and broke in. There were some small colored flags staked to the front and back lawns from USIC (Undergound Utility Location and Damage Prevention). I'm guessing this is preparation for the eventual demolition.

I will be back in East Rockaway in either March or June of next year. I have a feeling that when I check on the house again, it won't be there.

March 10, 2017
The house has been demolished. For more details, see this blog post.


Comment from: Doreen [Visitor]

Paul, I hope you had a respirator or some sort of mask on. G-d only knows what you may have been breathing in with all that mold and fallen ceiling debris.

Apr. 13, 2013 @ 03:31
Comment from: [Member]

No mask or respirator, but you can be assured I didn’t spend very long in there. I only went in to quickly get one item, and didn’t even think I would see anything different than what I saw the last time I went in there. I took the iPod Touch just for the heck of it; mainly just in case there was no house there anymore (as I would want to document that).

Apr. 13, 2013 @ 05:42
Comment from: Mrmichaelt [Visitor]

Oh, brother!! Glad to hear you got the majority of your computer system though.

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 06:04
Comment from: Bob [Visitor]  

Hey Paul, I’m amazed the house is still standing. But, I was really shocked to see the hole in your room. With all the moving we were doing, I’m thankfully that didn’t come down on our heads!

Sorry to hear about your burner though, could maybe the landlord kick back some to you?

Keep in touch


Apr. 22, 2013 @ 13:25

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