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Neighbors rebuild Sandy victim’s home

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More than 130 friends and neighbors of West End resident Liz Treston gathered at the Knights’ Pub on March 24 for a fundraiser to raise money to rebuild her Hurricane Sandy-damaged home.

Treston, who thought she’d be back in her home six months ago but remains displaced, was forced out when water rushed in during the storm, flooded the basement and destroyed her belongings. She has a C6 spinal cord injury and requires a wheelchair-accessible home.

After living in three different rentals and facing years of challenges to find a contractor who would rebuild her house, she found someone in 2016 who she claimed took more than $100,000 in NY Rising and personal funds from her and abandoned the project, leaving the house unfinished and uninhabitable.

But Treston’s friend and fellow Long Beach resident, Norah Egan, is leading an effort to raise money for the materials needed to rebuild the house through a fund launched by the United Spinal Association New York City chapter.

“We’re very grateful, and it was lovely to see people show up for Liz,” said Egan, who thanked the volunteers who helped with the construction and organize the fundraiser as well as Seaside Celebrations, which donated its services for the event. “It was successful, but we still have a long road to go.”

Long Beach-based contractors, including Charles “Moose” Gusler, Gerry Conway, Pat Gordon and Jamie Lynch, are helping to rebuild her home — equipped with accessibility features — with the help of some local residents, and no profit for themselves. Sheetrock and trim work supplies were also donated by R&J Construction Corp. of Island Park by owners Scott Horak and Ralph Richardson. Johanna Sofield, president of the Long Beach Christmas Angel, contacted Horak and he immediately jumped on-board to help Treston get home.

Egan said she plans to reimburse the lead contractor, Gusler, through the fund and needs at least $50,000 for the project. The event raised about $12,500, while the fund has garnered about $40,000. Egan will continue to coordinate weekend volunteer sessions for community members to help with the construction process.

The construction plans include installing an elevator and building a front deck with an accessible entryway, and Gusler said he hopes Treston would be able to return home by summertime.

“I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring and generosity of the people of Long Beach and their friends,” Treston said. “I was delighted to see faces from kindergarten, parents of high school friends and people that I had assisted during their process of rebuilding. I will never be able to repay them, but will die trying.”

Treston is a local community advocate for people with disabilities and those who have been struggling with the NY Rising program, and chairwoman of Long Beach Community Organizations Active in Disasters, an organization that assists residents after natural disasters. Many said that because Treston dedicates so much of her time to helping others, it was time to give back.

“The Long Beach community came through for Liz Treston by saving her home,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said. “This type of generosity defines the Long Beach spirit and makes me proud to both come from and represent this community. Liz’s case, however, illustrates a larger program with respect to shady contractors who prey on Sandy victims, and there is still much work to do to hold these contractors accountable and get people back home and out of debt.”

To make a donation, visit the “Get Liz Treston Home” Facebook page at bit.ly/2GR2CK or www.nycspinalcord.org/liz-treston-fund.