Fred and Barbara Toborg built their two-story house in Broad Channel, Queens in 1988, and over the last 25 years, the structure, which sits about three feet off the ground in the low-lying neighborhood, never flooded. Hurricane Sandy was a different story. The house took on four feet of water, completely destroying the ground floor and all of the utilities. The wooden floors buckled, the deck tilted at an angle, and dozens of family photos, books, and artwork were lost. Immediately after the storm, the couple?he, the retired athletics coach of Manhattan's Trinity School and she, a full-time volunteer at the Broad Channel Historical Society?started to make repairs, but they realized the house needed much more than a quick clean-up.
Word of their situation spread quickly through the Trinity alumni network, and within days, a group of Fred's former students descended on the house. Among them was Chip Brian, CEO of the design-build firm Design Development NYC. When he saw the scope of the damage, Brian knew that it was going to take a long time to properly rebuild the house. "A lot of the reconstruction that was already taking place was ill-advised," says Brian. Waterlogged walls and floors needed to be thoroughly dried out. "Mold is a serious concern. A quick and easy fix will result in a long-term health hazard."
The team ripped out the entire ground floor?and found another inch of stagnant water sitting beneath the wooden floors?and started the dehumidification process in November. Four months later, they were finally able to restart construction. During this time, the Toborgs drifted between the houses of friends and family in the city, as well as Florida, Pittsburgh, and Vermont. "The whole thing sometimes feels like a dream," says Barbara. "I'm having trouble remembering a lot of it. You just want to forget. You don't want to keep dwelling on the hardships. It's like childbirth. You forget the pain and just focus on the baby." Or in this case, a rebuilt home, given to them for free.
Design Development NYC rebuilt the first floor and foundation, implementing measures that will help protect the house against future storms. Brian wanted to elevate the house more, but the Toborgs talked him out of it because it would have made the reconstruction take much longer. "We're taking a risk that way," admits Fred. "We're counting on Sandy being a one in 100 years storm."
The team installed flood and vapor barriers beneath the house and built flood vents into the foundation walls. Antimicrobial treatments were applied throughout the whole first floor, and they rewired the entire electric system; all outlets and wires were completely shot.
The wooden deck was demolished and rebuilt, as were the kitchen counters and cabinets.
The Toborgs moved back into their home at the beginning of May, and construction finished in mid-June. Many of their neighbors, however, moved away for the winter and just began the rebuilding process this spring.
"There's no mass exodus," says Barbara. "There's a real sense of place. People are not anxious to leave." She adds, "It's a poor man's paradise?except when something like a superstorm happens."
· Design Development NYC [official]
· Design Development NYC coverage [Curbed]