Battered by Superstorm Sandy, the “social fabric of Country Club” needs mending.
The Interclub, made up of six iconic clubs along the east Bronx shoreline, has had rough eight months rebuilding following Sandy.
And with little insurance, or state or federal aid, members have gotten into the “spirit of volunteerism,” rebuilding on its own while hosting fundraisers to pay for roughly $2 million in storm-related costs.
“Some of us are personally financing the rebuilding of these clubs to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars,” said Ron Watson, president of the Manhem Club.
The Interclub, also made up of the American Turner, Askov Hall Beach Club, D.A. Beach Club, the Westchester Country Club, and White Cross Fishing Club, experienced varying damage.
While some buildings faced a deluge in their first floors, mountains of debris and torn roofs, all of their piers were knocked out by Sandy’s destructive surge. None of them are covered by insurance.
“There’s nothing left of it,” said Matt Flood, president of Askov, who witnessed Sandy knock out the pier it took $60,000 to upgrade two years before.
The Westchester Country Club, sitting on the edge of Long Island Sound, suffered the most damage.
Club president John O’Shaughnessy has dealt with a slow insurance review process and a maze of bureaucratic channels to recoup losses.
“It’s not one-stop shopping,” said O’Shaughnessy, now working with an insurance adjuster.
No help from insurance or Sandy aid
The Interclubs survived crushing storms for years, with most clubs opting just for regular insurance.
But after Superstorm Sandy, providers have shifted blame to the enormous surge not covered by insurance.
“Their modus operandi is to deny,” said the Manheim’s Watson. “Deny all claims until the customer comes back and fights the claim.”
“They’re screwing us left and right,” said Kenny Knapp, WCFC president, who just rebuilt the inground swimming pool with money from the fundraiser.
Matt Flood of the Askov Club received some help from his flood insurer, though he got a measly $228 from his other insurer to cover $100,000 in damages to the side of his building.
As for any Federal Emergency Management Agency aid, the club’s were turned down since they’re a social club, a 501(c)7 nonprofit, exempt from paying federal taxes.
They only qualify for a Small Business Administration loan of up to $250,000, though the clubs refuse to take it since it’s unsure whether it can be paid back. The Interclub’s already socked with an $18,000-$27,000 a year property tax bill by the city Finance Department.
“If we can get some tax relief, tax abatement, that would go a long way in preserving our longetivity,” said Watson.
But they hope to file papers with the IRS granting them 501(c)3 status, improving their chances of receiving FEMA aid should a hundred-year storm surface again.
On their own
To save money, skilled club members have rolled up their sleeves, joining the restoration effort.
Watson has rallied members into building, with an Aug. 10 deadline, when Manheim hosts the yearly Interclub Swim Races.
“I used that date as a force and function to make sure things are done,” said Watson, a retired U.S. Marine lt. colonel impressed by the “spirit of volunteerism” that’s helped rebuild portions of the Interclub.
They’ve also been rebuilding smart, with plans to raise their docks against future storms.
Turning to Elected Officials
Local elected officials are also trying to help.
“We are working with them to identify new funding streams that can help them overcome some of these obstacles,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, who said he hopes to “help these clubs re-open each and every season.”
Donations can be sent to: Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, c/o White Cross Fishing Club, 750 Clarence Ave., Bronx, NY 10465
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383