Audrey Taylor has a photo of her grandmother standing on the roof of her home on North Ferry Street, waiting to be picked up by a boat.
Severe flooding in the Stockade area of the city sent several other owners to the roofs of their homes almost seven decades ago, when Taylor was only a baby.
Her parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts all lived in the home at some point. So the 70-year-old was happy to receive help Saturday to clean out the family homestead after one of the worst floods she has seen wreaked havoc on her first floor.
“You’ll find a lot of things after a flood. Things that are valuable to you that you’ve lost, they’re gone,” Taylor said. “So things that weren’t so valuable before, now become valuable because it’s all you have left. And so you’re trying to salvage what you have left because you know you’ve got to start all over again. When you’re in your 70s that’s hard to do, to just start all over again.”
A group of about 30 Union College students helped the Taylor family on Saturday to rid the yard and home of belongings that are now junk. The effort was the first of several volunteer opportunities students will have a chance to participate in each month this school year.
And there will certainly be no shortage of them after Hurricane Irene sent floodwaters into the historic Stockade district and Rotterdam Junction last month, along with communities along the Schoharie Creek.
Bill Macejka was on the scene Saturday assuring residents who walked up and down North Ferry Street that they could get the help they needed. Shovels? No problem. Advice on mold removal? He’ll look into it. Volunteer assistance? He’s the guy.
“What good is a city for if it can’t help you during times of devastation like this?” Macejka asked one resident.
His presence is a familiar one in the flood-hit area as Macejka, the senior solid waste supervisor for the city, has coordinated cleanup efforts and debris removal since Aug. 29.
Students pitch in
So when Union College wanted to send students to areas of the city that most needed volunteer help, he was the guy to ask.
“They feel good about this,” said Macejka of the students who showed up to the Taylor house Saturday. “I talked to a few of the guys and they said it was just amazing, the devastation and everything. It felt really good for them to go out and help. These are going to be our future leaders here.”
Students from Union fraternities Sigma Chi and Psi Epsilon worked in shifts Saturday to help the Taylors move items in and out of a dumpster. They looked overwhelmed at times, hauling hefty, mud-caked furniture across a slippery, mud-caked lawn.
“It’s awful. It was a shock,” said Jesse Grushack, a sophomore from Long Beach. “I didn’t know it was that bad. Out on Long Island, we didn’t get it nearly as bad as they did.”
A handful of fraternity brothers, all from various cities on the East Coast, said they were glad to help out a family in need.
The Taylors are one of many families in the district who needed to muck out their basement and remove insulation on their first floor. With help from volunteers, she was able to empty out a lot of ruined belongings from her home.
“We’ve had friends, we’ve had to hire some people, and we’ve had these volunteers,” she said from a buckled sidewalk on North Ferry. “We’ve depended a lot on volunteers to come in. They’ve been going through the neighborhood and mostly people are at least settled in the state where they can start again.”
She and her husband are way behind the rest of the Stockade, though, she said. There’s still no power. Mud still lines the basement. And she’s begun seeing white fuzz pop up in moist areas, prompting her to ask Macejka about the proper methods of mold removal.
But the home has been in her family for generations and she’ll do what it takes to get it back to the beautiful state it was once in, she said.
“Every year, you go through flood threats,” Taylor said. “But believe me, you don’t go through this. This is a really great neighborhood and there’s a lot of interest in the homes and keeping things up because it’s a really beautiful place to live.”
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