Marian Freedman, 70, has lived on Dalton Street with her husband, Gus, 88, since 1972. She has paid their flood insurance bills on time, and they fled the city whenever a mandatory evacuation order was issued, including during Tropical Storm Irene.
But Irene wasn’t so bad, Freedman said, so they chose to stay behind during Hurricane Sandy, only to watch the floodwaters rise.
“This was the first time we decided not to evacuate,” she said, standing inside her gutted home, where the couple has been living since January. When the waters rushed into their single-family ranch, Marian and Gus, who worked in retail and sales before they retired, hurried upstairs to the attic with their dog and pet birds. There was barely room to stand, she recalled.
“That saved our lives,” she said. “I got my animals in the attic and then I got [Gus] into the attic. And I was trying to save all of my pictures.”
The home was inundated by more than 4 feet of water and sustained nearly $100,000 in damage, she said. The Freedmans received rental assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and moved into an apartment in Woodbury. But Gus, who is in deteriorating health and suffers from dementia, had to be admitted to a hospital at the time.
When he was released, Marian said, she just wanted to return home and take care of him. “I figured if I get him out of the hospital and bring him home, he’ll be OK,” she said.
Her contractor had gutted the house, and heat and electricity were restored. The man Freedman hired to repair her oil burner even donated a washing machine. “We came back in January,” she said, “and FEMA got me electricity and heat, so we were able to move in.”
Marian now sleeps on a small cot in what used to be the den, beside her ailing husband, who sleeps on a recliner. A small flat-screen TV sits on a wooden stool. Their refrigerator works, but they use a microwave, propped on an ironing board, to heat their food. The interior of the home is in shambles, the walls exposed and the floor torn up.
Freedman said that she took out a $97,000 flood insurance policy with her insurance company, Allstate, and has received $47,000 to cover some of the damage. But the company has yet to determine whether her policy will cover all of it, she said.