'I'm Not Moving Away'
John Howley, 81, a personal injury lawyer, has practiced law in Rockaway since 1963. His office on the second floor of a Rockaway Park building was not damaged, but water and debris destroyed communications systems and the building's entrance, he said.
Thousands of records on open and closed cases were destroyed in his basement, garage and in a storage facility at another location. Now Howley is in the process of recreating files.
Lenny Izzo, ALM's chief marketing officer, left, and Hal Cohen, publisher of the New York Law Journal, right, present checks to John and Marie Howley, above, Brian Peknic and Charles Peknic, below, and Justin Freedhand, bottom. NYLJ Photos/Rick Kopstein
He couldn't return to his office and home for two months. Meanwhile, in the weeks after Sandy, many neighbors turned to Howley, a Rotary member, for advice on who to contact at FEMA and city departments for various services.
Howley lost both his cars in the storm, and his home experienced $100,000 in damage, he said. A piece of his house tore off and ripped his water line, while an oil tank in his basement was smashed, releasing gallons of oil.
"My house stinks of oil," he said.
Howley and his wife temporarily moved in with their daughter, in whose home he worked until they moved to a hotel provided by FEMA.
The relief from ALM, he said, will be used to pay back his daughter.
"She fed me and my wife" and other family members, he said.
Howley said he will continue to work full time and only plans to retire "when I can't make the stairs."
"I'm not moving away from the area, and I'm not retiring. I like what I do," Howley said.
'People Need Attorneys Here'
At five-attorney Peknic, Peknic & Schaefer in Long Beach, more than three feet of water rushed into the firm's office, which is one block from the ocean and one block from the bay, said firm partner Charles Peknic, 43, who runs the firm with his brother Brian Peknic and Sean Schaefer.
Furniture, office supplies, library materials, copy machines and much of the wooden flooring was damaged. After working remotely and in temporary space, attorneys and staff returned to the Long Beach office in late December.
On a personal level, a number of attorneys also suffered damage to their homes.
At the office, "the walls had to be gutted, the floors were ruined," said senior paralegal Debbie Bucking. The firm still needs to restock supplies and repair its floors, kitchen area and fix its roof, she said.
"We look like we're together but we're missing a lot," Bucking said. "It's been a real struggle to get back on our feet."
Attorneys at the general practice firm handle real estate, criminal, corporate, personal injury, trusts and estates and litigation. The lawyers are servicing clients but everything takes longer, Peknic said.
Bucking noted that the firm has been one of the few businesses open in the west end of Long Beach.
"People need attorneys here, especially at a time like this," she said.
The firm has been giving advice on insurance policies and FEMA assistance while reviewing contracts and leases, among other work, most of it pro bono, Peknic said.
When clients came in asking for help, "We would bring them into a conference room, which was a completely gutted room and sit down…while our entire office was being worked on", said Peknic. "The work attire for about a month was jeans, sweatshirts and work boots."
The firm did not have flood insurance and is faced with about $100,000 in damages, which Peknic said the firm will cover.
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