“I never want to stay in a motel again,” said Gerry. “We started out telling people we were staying in a hotel, and it was great. Then, as time went on, it became a motel, and then it became a FEMA motel.”
Gerry and his wife are just one of 70 families staying at the Best Western Mill River Manor in Rockville Centre thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program, funding for which is set to end on Jan. 26. Gerry, a resident of Oceanside, gave only his first name in the interest of protecting his home, which has been unoccupied since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the area on Oct. 29.
Mike, a resident of Island Park who also requested anonymity, joined Gerry in the hotel lobby last Thursday to watch a New York Knicks game. The two said that watching sports together, and with other husbands staying at the hotel, while their wives have that time to unwind in their rooms, gives them a chance to escape the realities of post-Sandy life for a few hours.
“We relieve our tension through football, basketball, here in the lobby,” Mike said. “When you come from a house, it’s hard to stay in one room with a cat, a wife and a husband.”
Both men said that they haven’t received much money from their insurance companies to cover the repairs to their homes. Gerry said that what his insurer has offered his family is just a fraction of the total cost, and Mike said that the $17,000 he received as startup money was spent in the first day.
“All the money I’ve been putting into my house and my credit card,” Mike said. “And everything is pretty much maxed out. My credit cards are running out … my retirement savings are running out.”
Gerry added, “This is not what I anticipated as saving for a rainy day.”
Adding to their financial challenges, Mike said, his wife had lost her job working for a doctor in Long Beach as a result of the storm, and both men said that they need to be around their houses almost every day to oversee the repairs.
“I wish my house was condemned,” Mike said. “It would have been easier if it was condemned rather than destroyed. I wish it would have burned down.”