“You can’t put those things on the flood,” Fedner said. “It’s just something else I have to pay for.”
But if you mention that he may qualify as unlucky, the energetic 55-year-old will tell you he’s one of the fortunate ones. “Look, I have other locations to help with costs,” he said. According to him, the people in real difficulty are his workers. Tutor Time employs 60 teachers — hourly help hired on the basis of the ratio of children to child care
Fedner has managed to keep the business afloat, he said, by moving dozens of enrollees to his Baldwin location, but he worries that if not enough families return to East Rockaway when it reopens (on Jan. 7, he hopes), he won’t be able to bring everyone back. He said that his facility served 165 children before the storm, and he hoped to retain around 90 percent of them. Still, even that best-case scenario means a 10 percent loss, and according to Susan Viggiano, director of the East Rockaway Tutor Time, about a third of her employees have been home without pay since Oct. 28, having lost a significant chunk of their annual income.
“Some of them are collecting unemployment, some of them may not be,” Viggiano says. “I get calls every day, asking, ‘When can we come back?’”
Lori Brodowsky, Felicia Aaron and Audrey Stewart, care providers who have been with the center for three to five years, were in a back classroom during the Herald’s visit, scrubbing down toys and toy baskets with cleanser. They wore purple rubber gloves and tired expressions.
“I started to worry about our jobs from day one,” said Brodowsky, a Farmingdale resident who now divides her time between East Rockaway and Baldwin. “It was the first thing I thought about after the flood.”
Her coworkers nodded in agreement. “You don’t know,” Stewart said. “Parents say they’re coming back, but …”
Even these teachers — anxious, exhausted, soaked in sterilizing liquids as they searched for more sponges among the crates and boxes littering the room — refused to see themselves as victims. “I mostly feel bad for the children,” said Brodowsky. “They don’t like to be relocated.”
“It was heartbreaking to see all their artwork destroyed,” said Aaron. “They work so hard on those projects.”