Heroic 'Operation Breezy Gut and Pump' Comes to an End

NY Daily News - December 11, 2012

by Henrick Karoliszyn

Volunteer group has worked on more than 500 homes since Superstorm Sandy struck

After an exhausting month of gutting, pumping and rebuilding, a heroic volunteer group suspended their Breezy Point operation on Sunday.

"It was great to help the people of Breezy Point get back on their feet after such a horrible time with Hurricane Sandy," said Phil Pillet, 50, who spearheaded "Operation Breezy Gut and Pump."

His initial crew of six recruited hundreds of additional volunteers since Superstorm Sandy struck to clear drenched drywall, pump water and rid mold from more than 500 homes in Breezy Point, he said.

"We've worked for 30 days straight and we're tired," said Pillet, a 23-year FDNY veteran from Ladder Co. 56 in the Bronx.

The humanitarian effort managed to draw a dedicated crew.

Bob Gibbons, 42, of Marietta, Pa., said he spent the past month living in a tent so he could remain close to the Breezy Point community he was aiding as part of the operation.

"I like helping people," he said. "It was amazing to see the thanks you get from residents. They're so appreciative. It's kind of like a family."

Erin Daly, 43, a prosecutor who owns a home in Breezy Point, has been involved with the effort since two days after the storm.

"It was probably one of the most rewarding things I've done in a really long time," she said.

Breezy Point residents expressed gratitude for their valiant work.

Valerie Broughton, a retiree who has had a home in Breezy Point for over 35 years, said the crew rescued her house.

"When you talk about heroes, they're heroes," she said. "They saved my house and everything in it. They knew exactly what had to be done. Phil and his people were so knowledgable and had the ability to go in there and take care of the situation."

Marian Lizzi, 44, a book editor, said the crew salvaged her mother's Breezy Point residence after she unsuccessfully tried finding help elsewhere.

"My mother tried to hire someone but the list was too long so these volunteers saved her," she said. "They've done amazing work and it's been a real life-saver for so many Breezy residents."

Pillet said that he was happy to help the badly torn Queens neighborhood.

"We wanted to get in there and get it done. I think we did that. I just wish we could do more for Breezy Point."