“It’s very frustrating to see that a person who knows so much about the details of the system got plain old screwed by a bad contractor, and is now unable to get back into her home,” said Sam Pinto, president of the Eastholme Civic Association. “And we’re going to help her.”
Pinto was referring to West End resident Liz Treston, who thought she would be back in her Hurricane Sandy-damaged home six months ago but remains displaced.
Treston, 57, is a community advocate for people with disabilities and those who have been struggling with the New York Rising program, and the chairwoman of Long Beach Community Organizations Active in Disasters, a group that assists residents after natural disasters. She has been unable to move back into her home since Sandy hit in 2012.
She was forced out when water rushed in, flooded the basement, destroyed her belongings and caused substantial damage. After living in three different rentals and facing years of challenges to find a contractor who would rebuild and elevate her home, Treston found someone in 2016 who she said took more than $100,000 in NY Rising funds and her own money and abandoned the project, leaving the house unfinished and uninhabitable.
“Finding an accessible temporary rental was a task,” said Treston, who has a spinal cord injury as well and requires a wheelchair-accessible home. “Nothing was [accessible], so I’ve found homes I can manage with assistance to get in and out of.”
She said she used an outdoor shower in the summer in one of the rentals because she didn’t have access to the bathroom.
Now, a group of determined Long Beach residents are banding together to help their friend and neighbor finally come home. Long Beach-based contractors Charles “Moose” Gusler, Gerry Conway, Pat Gordon and Jamie Lynch agreed to help rebuild her home — and equip it with accessibility features — with the help of some local residents, and for no profit.
“She’s in a bad place — they left her so far from finished it’s unreal,” Gusler said, adding that he and the other contractors have been busy working on Sandy-damaged homes around town. “But we’re going to make it happen.”
Treston’s friend Norah Egan is leading an effort to raise money for the materials needed for the project through a fund launched for Treston by the United Spinal Association’s New York City chapter. Egan said she plans to reimburse Gusler, the lead contractor, and needs to raise at least $50,000.
“She fights at City Hall for everything,” Egan said of Treston. “She’s such an advocate for Long Beach, and she does it always with a smile on her face.”
A fundraiser is set for March 24, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Knights’ Pub, where seven local breweries — the Long Beach Brewing Company, Flying Belgian, Lithology, Montauk, Sixpoint, Blue Point and Greenport — will showcase their best beers. Admission is $60 in advance and $75 at the door, and space is limited.
“She’s the type of person who’s always looking out for others in the community, and it’s great to see people looking out for her,” George Gentilesco, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus, who helped organize the event, said of Treston. “She’s certainly deserving of any help we can give her.”
Gusler said he hoped Treston would be able to return home before the summer, although the house may not be finished. The plans include an elevator and a front deck with an accessible entryway. Gusler also commended Egan’s efforts to help Treston while she is struggling to elevate her own Sandy-damaged home.
Sheetrock and trim work supplies will be donated by R & J Construction Corp. of Island Park by owners Scott Horak and Ralph Richardson. Johanna Sofield from the Long Beach Christmas Angel contacted Horak and he immediately jumped on-board with this project to help Treston get home.
Kevin Reilly, vice president of the North East Bay and Canals Civic Association and co-founder of Long Beach Rising, is another Treston fan. “Liz is and has been one of our biggest advocates for everything, from dealing with New York Rising, dealing with the stress of the disaster after Sandy, [to running] the Long Beach COAD, which has done a lot of great work for us,” Reilly said. “Liz is an absolutely stoic woman. She doesn’t ask anybody for help.”
“Liz Treston is an outstanding advocate for the Long Beach community — she always fights for others, and it’s heartwarming to see her neighbors rally to support her in return,” added State Sen. Todd Kaminsky. “Liz’s work to expose corrupt contractors on the South Shore has been vital, and I will continue to fight with her to ensure those who are guilty of fraud are sentenced and homeowners are back where they belong.”
To make a donation to the Get Liz Treston Home fund, visit http://bit.ly/2GR2CKn or www.nycspinalcord.org/liz-treston-fund.