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Volunteers help clean up Albany flood damage

Steve Flamisch

Steve is a general assignment reporter for WNYT Channel 13.

ALBANY – Braving the smell of sewage, volunteers worked Saturday to remove waterlogged fixtures and furniture from the Elberon Pl. basement apartments that flooded during Tuesday's rain.

Ten of the volunteers are members of the veterans service group Team Rubicon, which travels the world helping victims of earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.

"We have a lot of vets who find a lot of camaraderie within this group," Rubicon’s Marc Denofio said. "We go out looking for these projects where we can get together and help out the community."

Members of the Albany, Saratoga, and Schenectady divisions of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) joined the effort on Saturday. Many of its members are veterans, too.

"People are overwhelmed when a disaster like this happens, and they don't know where to turn," AOH member Jim Scott said. "Well, we want people to realize that the Hibernians are there."

Joshua Rosa is thankful for the help. He, his wife Mery, and their 2-year-old daughter Melissa lived in one of the flooded units. They lost everything except their optimism.

"I'm just happy to have a place to stay at right now, and not live on the streets," Rosa said. "That one day, I was homeless. And now I'm living in an apartment… so I'll start all over again."

But Rosa’s landlord is tired of starting over. Luigi Benincasa told NewsChannel 13 that, after years of flooding, he is no longer renting out the basement.

"I just don't want this to happen again to another tenant," Benincasa told NewsChannel 13. "That's the first reason. And the second reason is, I just don't have the money to redo it."

Though he estimated the damage in the tens of thousands of dollars, Benincasa said he is saving money on the clean-up thanks to the volunteers.

"The efficiency and the compassion, it’s touching," he said, echoing Rosa’s sentiment. "I appreciate it, and I can’t thank them enough. I really can’t."

Many of the volunteers in Albany this weekend helped tornado victims in Schenectady County this spring. Most are from the Capital Region, while others came up from Brooklyn and New Jersey.