Rabbi Shalom Paltiel sensed the damage to Chabad of Port Washington on Shore Road might be bad when he saw Manhasset Bay flooding the road in the wake of Super Storm Sandy.
Fortunately, he’d already removed the Torahs before the storm hit.
News reports "were talking about 11 foot waves,” Rabbi Paltiel said, adding that he removed “anything not replaceable.”
Still, despite strategically placed sandbags piled 3 feet high, the “water line was a foot-and-a-half high on the outside,” he said.
Inside, he said, it looked like a lake, with classrooms, the brand new gym and even the lobby now needing new flooring, insulation and painting. On Tuesday, what was once shiny wood gym flooring lay unusable oustide the rear of the building. “It’s a pile of rubbish,” he said.
And while insurance will cover $500,000 to repair the building, the damage, Rabbi Paltiel said, “is estimated at at least $750,000.”
That’s put Chabad into emergency mode in restoring its programs, and its facility.
The Children’s Center of Port Washington is housing Chabad’s pre-school and Hebrew School, Rabbi Patiel said. These programs may be able to return to Chabad within the next week, “as soon as its safe,” he added.
But because of the damage to the gym, it currently cannot host community teams, including those enrolled in the Island Garden Basketball program, or the six adult groups that use the gym until after Jan. 1, he said.
A newly formed committee is brainstorming to “generate funds quickly,” Rabbi Paltiel said, noting that supporters can donate money online.
Meanwhile, workers are busy restoring the building. Rabbi Paltiel said that when restoration companies said to call back in two weeks, a Chabad member put him in touch with Damon Gersh, a Port Washington residents who owns Maxons Restoration in New York. Without Gersh’s immediate assistance, mold would have taken hold.
"I was very happy that my company was able to help the Chabad with their recovery from the extensive damages they sustained as a result of Superstorm Sandy," Gersh said. "We were inundated with hundreds of calls for emergency flood restoration services from all over the tri-state area in the days following the storm, but when I received the e-mail from a mutual friend and Rabbi Paltiel about the Chabad right here in town I made sure that they were made a top priority. We were able to redirect one of our emergency service crews with over a hundred pieces of drying equipment to mitigate their loss and make sure one disaster didn't turn into another."
The rabbi said that prior to Sandy, Maura Bros. also proved invaluable.
“I called them on Sunday afternoon, just before the storm,” Rabbi Paltiel said. “They called their men in and came in with 10 people and 100 sandbags. They no doubt saved the day – without the sandbags damage would have been far worse.”