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Dec 3, 2012 7:14 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bridgehampton Students Lend A Hand To The Rockaways

Dec 4, 2012 2:00 PM

Early on Thanksgiving Eve, the first day of a long holiday weekend, more than 30 students, faculty and staff arrived at Bridgehampton School even earlier than on a normal school day. All felt the call to respond in person to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort organized by librarian David Holmes. His plan was simple: locate an area in need, collect relief and cleanup supplies, and assemble a team that would travel to the area, lending whatever support and help were necessary.

Bay Park, a section of East Rockaway huddling along either side of Grand Canal, had taken one of the heaviest hits from the storm, with tidal surges flooding basements and the first floors of homes, and rendering the town without power for weeks. Many of the lifelong residents, overwhelmed at the extent of the destruction wrought upon their homes and community, had fled to relatives’ houses or temporary apartments funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the D’Agostinos, relatives of teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, had begun the hard road to recovery with little to no assistance. The D’Agostinos canvassed the “ghost town,” suggesting areas where help was most sorely needed.

Other than the connection to Ms. Fayyaz, and the fact that the Killer Bees had played East Rockaway High School in basketball last season, the people and the town the Bridgehampton relief effort targeted were virtual strangers. That was part of what felt so right about the trip, said Coach Carl Johnson, who had required his varsity team members to attend.

“We’re blessed with so much out here, while there are people all over the island suffering,” he said. “These kids need to see for themselves just how fortunate they are.”

The nine players who came—Devin Brevard, Tylik Furman, Jason Hopson, Anajae Lamb, Joshua Lamison, Aditya Nugraha, Jhon Matute, Erick Saldivar and Jerome Walker—were joined by 15 other student volunteers: eighth-grader Tyler Stephens; freshmen Lizzy Hochstedler, Michael Smith, Isaiah Aqui, Aries Cooks and Dylan Breault; sophomores Jada Pinckney and Claudio Figueroa; juniors Jennah Hochstedler, Tatyana Dawson and India Hemby; and seniors Jacob Hostetter, Joshua Hostetter, Christian Figueroa and Bryzeida Perez. Along to chaperone and work beside the students were Mr. Holmes and Coach Johnson, principal’s secretary Christine Harrison, speech language pathologist Aleaze Hodgens, substitute teacher Dom Grieco, teacher’s aide Cheryl Nordt, and English teacher Tom House.

“This is a true community effort,” Mr. Holmes said, noting the boxes and bags of food and clothing donated by staff and parents. Thayer’s Hardware contributed generous supplies of gloves and masks, and Cromer’s Market provided egg-and-cheese sandwiches, which volunteers happily hunkered down with for the first part of the 80-mile, 2-hour drive to Bay Park.

Arriving just after 9, the team split into groups that moved between four venues—three private homes and the Bay Park Civic Center—each requiring different types of assistance, all of them challenging and taxing.

In three of the buildings, sheetrock and insulation in the lower halves of the first-floor walls needed to be removed, and all those crumbled bits of wall had to be swept up and bagged and hauled to the streets. Teams emptied rooms and a garage of ruined furniture, dead appliances and sodden books, files and photographs.

At the home of Vinny Esposito, former Bay Park Civic Association president, Ms. Hodgens, Mr. House and four boys hauled panel after panel of 8-by-4-foot sheetrock into a gutted basement until their arms ached. The D’Agostino house had taken a terrible hit; though much of the sheetrock, insulation and flooring on the first floor had already been removed, the boiler room walls still needed to be knocked out, and the ground beneath the exposed floorboards raked free of debris.

The Bridgehampton contingent was able to do the most good, however, at the Civic Center, a building on the water that hadn’t been opened since the storm. The town’s residents had taken great pride in the center, Ms. D’Agostino told the group. It was the heart and soul of the community. “This is where we gathered for summer lunches and holiday parties, where children would have come in December to see Santa,” she said.

Stairs and an entrance ramp, demolished by the storm, lay in a heap to the side of the building, and one team spent hours breaking them into smaller pieces that could be dragged to the street, while another team worked inside, emptying the office and rooms of appliances, file cabinets, and other ruined furnishings, while others ripped down walls and continually swept and bagged crumbled sheetrock.

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