The sound coming from the gym at the Hoboken Boys & Girls Club on a typical weekday is that of children’s voices, bouncing balls, and sneakers skidding across the hardwood floor.
On Friday, those sounds were replaced with a deafening silence.
The smell of rotting wood permeated the air. And the gym itself: destroyed by flood water.
“When I walked in, I was crying,” said Yvette Miles, who has worked for the Boys & Girls club for 15 years. Cleaning out parts of the heavily damaged floor, she said she was afraid to tell the kids just how hard the building was hit by the storm.
“For the kids,” she said, “it’s their second home.”
The entire first floor of the building at 123 Jefferson St. suffered extensive damage during superstorm Sandy, which could be as much as $150,000, said Gary Greenberg, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club.
The gym, the cafeteria as well as a brand new teachers’ lounge were all heavily damaged.
The gym’s hardwood floor—which was completed about eight years ago with the help of a grant—is beyond repair. The floor boards all curled up. Puddles of water containing oil residue were still visible on Friday morning.
Greenberg said that without assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the club cannot pay for the cost to restore the gym and the rest of the first floor.
“We brought it up to a point where we were so unbelievably proud of it,” Greenberg said about the building. “And then this came.”
Greenberg said that as long the first floor is unusable, kids will be bused to Jersey City.
While Hola’s—the Spanish language charter school that leases the building—classrooms upstairs were in tact, its back yard was completely destroyed. The back yard, which previously had been blooming with fruits and vegetables that were planted and cared for by the students, was covered in a thick layer of oil.
Walking out of the building, one of the HoLa founders, Barbara Martinez, looked around the garden in disbelief.
“This was our beautiful garden,” Martinez said.
Martinez said that she hopes the HoLa students will be able to use a nearby gym—maybe in the city’s Multi Service Center, which is a block away—for its physical education classes.
HoLa has been in the building for the past three years. Martinez said it’s still unclear when classes will resume, a decision that will largely hinge upon when power is restored in Hoboken.
But what the Boys & Girls Club staffers were feeling on Friday morning was mostly sadness.
It took years to renovate the building room by room, piece by piece, Greenberg said. And Sandy has undone much of that.
“It’s such an important place for so many kids in Hoboken,” said Martinez. “To be hit like this is just heartbreaking."