Joseph McKellar, executive director of Queens Congregations United for Action, said that the city's program is "a good first step," but that 2,000 homes is "really only a start."
McKellar and other labor, faith and community leaders formed "Back Home, Back to Work," an organization that wants to use union members to clean out mold-infested homes in New York. The group is calling for part of the $50.5 billion emergency aid package passed by Congress to be used for mold remediation. Sen. Charles Schumer said he would like to see federal money allocated to fight mold.
New Jersey is looking at opportunities for a similar program, said Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Health. The state is waiting to see if grants from the aid package can be used to help residents fight mold.
The Robin Hood Foundation also made grants to programs in New Jersey that provide free mold remediation to Sandy victims.
Lioy worries the mold problem will only get worse in the spring and summer, when consistently warm temperatures will allow mold to flourish. Even warm days like Wednesday and Thursday, when temperatures reached into the 50s and 60s, can accelerate mold growth.
Richard Schielke scrubbed the salt and mud off his hardwood floors after the storm but discovered weeks later that mold lurked under the floor. He hired a crew from Flag Enterprises, a Lindenhurst, N.Y., restoration services company. Workers scoured his moldy floor and walls and set up large air filters that hummed throughout his home.
"There was no playbook saying, 'If this happens, this is what you should do,'" Schielke, of Massapequa, N.Y., said.
Alyssa Durnien, of Keansburg, N.J., came back to her damaged house about 15 days after the storm and sprayed a mildew product on the wood and underbelly of her home, which had mold damage.
Months later, the mold is back. Durnien set up dehumidifiers throughout the house and plans to hire a professional.
"I can tell you," she said, "there's still mold there."
Associated Press writers Frank Eltman in Massapequa, N.Y., and David B. Caruso in New York contributed to this report.
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