Rebuilding Brooklyn Neighborhood

Frank McCauley, his wife, Liz, and their 9-year-old daughter almost lost it all in 2012. When Superstorm Sandy hit Gerritsen Beach, New York, six feet of floodwater nearly destroyed the two-story home that had been passed down to Frank from his parents. For months, the McCauleys stayed in a shelter while they looked for space with relatives.

Stories like theirs are common in Gerritsen Beach, a low-lying peninsula neighborhood in southeast Brooklyn that was in the eye of the storm. Raging water submerged entire homes. Families found fish in their basements. Hundreds of homeowners were forced out of their homes for months.

At one point, you sort of give up and you lose hope a little bit, and say, ‘Wow, we’re just alone.’ Then all of a sudden, you have a hundred people in your house helping you. That’s amazing.
– Liz McCauley, Gerritsen Beach homeowner

Immediately after the disaster, Lowe’s committed $2 million to Sandy relief efforts and began working with our national partners, including Rebuilding Together, to assist storm-battered communities. Promising to be there to help for as long as needed, Lowe’s joined Rebuilding Together eight months after the storm to rebuild Gerritsen Beach. More than 80 Lowe’s Heroes from 10 stores in New York and New Jersey joined hundreds of other volunteers to restore a dozen homes and revitalize the working-class neighborhood.

Although the McCauleys had moved back into their home, the high cost of labor had hampered their attempts to rebuild. So when an army of volunteers showed up to put in a new deck and complete extensive interior repairs, Liz McCauley was nearly speechless.

Dennis Karnbach, a U.S. Navy veteran and retiree, shared her gratitude. Karnbach has lived in Gerritsen Beach for 54 years. After Sandy, he and his girlfriend, Judith, were displaced for six months. “Water up to here,” said Dennis, pointing to his ribs.

For weeks, he didn’t want to go into his home. “I walked in and then walked right back out,” he said. Over time, he made as many repairs as he could and then he just couldn’t do any more.

“Now I have a new living room. I don’t have to sit outside anymore,” Karnbach said. “I’ll always remember June 6. Once because of D-Day, and twice because of Rebuilding Together. Now I can get my life back to normal, and that’s what you strive for – normalcy. I even got the mail back coming to the house.”