Island Park flea market targets those hurt by Sandy
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Karen Dinan didn't know where to look first. There were dining room tables, dish sets, coats, toiletries and cleaning products all around her.
"It's just so overwhelming," she said while surveying the organized piles, racks and tables.
Dinan, 49, of Long Beach, was one of about 300 people who meandered through an outdoor flea market in Island Park on Sunday for those who lost possessions in superstorm Sandy.
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Dinan said her entire basement flooded and part of her first floor was damaged. She has slept on a leaking air mattress while awaiting repairs.
"The whole community . . . has been like a giant hug," said Dinan, who was looking for a mattress. "Everyone's been supportive."
The support is still needed, six months after Sandy, said Sue Hecht, a member of Save Our Shoreline Towns Long Island/New York. The group -- which includes Oceanside, Long Beach and Island Park residents -- organized the event in the parking lot of Long Island Exchange Antiques. Attendees arrived two hours early for the flea market, forming a line that snaked down Austin Boulevard.
"People are living almost as if they're homeless. Nobody knows that I'm sleeping on ripped sheets and a ripped comforter," said Hecht, 43, of Island Park, who lost most of what she owned.
Part of that struggle is waiting for insurance companies to release payments, being denied FEMA assistance or struggling with red tape by charitable organizations, Hecht and others said. That's where the idea for a flea market emerged -- a place where people could simply take what they needed after showing their FEMA ID or aid letter.
"I think that's what's so important about the flea market," Hecht said. "You don't have to beg and jump through hoops to get what you need."
Jeanne Hubschmitt, 54, of Long Beach, said that as a widow it has been hard to make ends meet since the storm, while living on Social Security. "It's far from over. Looks are deceiving," said the mother of three adult children and a teenage son.
Her basement took in 61/2 feet of water and her home has more than $50,000 in structural damage, she said. Hubschmitt said she only received enough FEMA aid to buy a boiler, but is applying for grants to help rebuild.
"Hopefully, somebody will come through," she said. "You just have to look at the positives and say, 'We're OK.' "
Miguel Ramos, 31, who goes by the nickname Migue, said he was most in need of food after losing almost all of his clothes and shoes to the storm.
"You eat it every day," said Ramos, who moved to Uniondale temporarily from Island Park, where he has lived for 12 years. "That money [for food], I can use for other things."
Island Harvest donated 240 boxes of food to the flea market, said Hecht, where people filled bags with everything from soup and water to baby formula.
For Cindy Breitman, 46, a psychologist from Oceanside, it has been difficult to accept help.
"I feel like other people had more damage even though we lost half of the house," she said while standing in line. Her flood insurance company estimated about $100,000 worth of damage to her home, which is near the bay, she said. "You walk into my home and it's down to the studs."
Breitman said she was on the hunt for outdoor furniture, toy cabinets for her three small children, and a toaster oven.
"People don't have their money yet to pay for the [construction] work," she said. Events like the flea market help those paying for the work out of pocket, she said. "I hope this continues on."
Organizers said donations can still be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.