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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Event

Eliminating Toxic Mold After Sandy

Juana Luna and her baby

Juana Luna and her baby born just days after the storm were displaced by flooding in Midland Beach. Now she waits for cleanup to address severe mold, seen here coming through the kitchen cabinet walls.

Last week marked 6 months since Hurricane Sandy devastated communities across New York City. We’ve shared with you how MRNY and our members have been working nonstop in low-income and immigrant communities in Staten Island, Queens and Long Island to ensure that cleanup efforts after the storm are equitable and reach the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Click here for photos and stories of Sandy’s impact.

Now our city must turn its attention to one of the most obstinate and problematic of Sandy’s impacts: Mold.

Toxic mold grows quickly and persistently when moisture remains behind after buildings flood. Without proper remediation, mold can take hold and cause or seriously exacerbate respiratory illness, especially in children and vulnerable adults. After Hurricane Katrina, 46% of homes were contaminated by mold and the number of children experiencing asthma attacks jumped 80%.

Yesterday, MRNY and our partners in the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding released a report, “Sandy’s Mold Legacy,”[1] based on in-depth interviews with nearly 800 Sandy-impacted families.

The findings are sobering: of homes that flooded during Sandy, a full 66% still have visible mold infestation six months after the hurricane. Ninety-two percent of mold-affected homeowners we surveyed have tried to remediate the mold, by themselves or with contractors, only to have the mold come back.

Not only is mold a public health crisis post-Sandy, it is also an issue of inequity: wealthy homeowners can afford to pay experts to make their homes safe. But middle and working class New Yorkers have limited options. Low-income renters in particular are stuck waiting for landlords to make repairs, living with toxic mold, or are still displaced from their homes. If the property owner does not know about or does not enroll in the Neighborhood Revitalization NYC program (which provides free remediation), tenants have virtually no recourse.

Our report urges the City to take swift action to proactively assess and systematically respond to the unmet need for mold remediation, and remove mold from rental housing where landlords have failed to act.

Make the Road’s own successful mold remediation program, Back Home, Back to Work, is delivering great results. We are partnering with Laborers Local 78 and several other key allies to train Sandy-impacted and hard-to-employ workers in mold remediation and place them with expert contractors to provide thorough, cost effective clean-up.

Check out our slideshow for stories of how Make the Road’s cleanup efforts are making an impact.

Thank you for your ongoing support for Make the Road’s Sandy recovery work! If you or someone you know is affected by mold in your home, contact Danielle Grant at (347) 684-7773.

– Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director

[1] Full text: “Sandy’s Mold Legacy: The Unmet Need 6 Months After the Storm