Joe and Carol Kennedy’s house in Baldwin’s Harbor Court is comfortable and has a sort of South Seas feel. You enter through the Paradise Room, so named due to the presence of a pastel-painted wooden wall hanging declaring the alcove “paradise,” then make your way into the living space. Chest-high indoor palm trees fan out from behind various brown leather furnishings, and a larger-than-life plush vulture has established ownership of a chair in the corner. Two teak-bladed ceiling fans rotate overhead, but they don’t appear to be taking their jobs seriously.
The cozy interior of the Kennedy home provides a stark contrast to the situation outside on Harbor Court — just the width of a picture window away. Sandy swept through this area with unbelievable force, and the scars of her passage are still evident.
Up the block, a massive house is being raised, and a dozen hard-hatted workmen scurry under the excavation. A hoodless sports car languishes at the mouth of a cul de sac and shows very little promise of stirring. Crusted clumps of mud have accumulated on the street’s yellowing lawns, and a small motorboat-turned-dumpster around the corner brims with splintered lumber and brick.
If you look closely around the Kennedy house, you can spot a few bare patches that indicate the scene outside did not always stop so politely at the front door. Loose wires spill from a few cavities in the ceiling, and absent countertops reveal the contents of the drawers beneath. Overall, though, the house feels like a home, and this, Joe Kennedy explains, is the work of Fred Firriolo, formerly a neighbor and now a friend.
As the floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy receded, they left massive destruction in their wake. Almost 100,000 homes in Nassau and Suffolk counties were damaged or destroyed by the storm, tens of thousands of cars were turned to scrap, and, the Empire State Development Corp., a business aid agency, said last week, the nearly 14,000 businesses in the two counties that were impacted lost an average of $70,000 that cannot be recouped.