Ashton Anderson, a 35-year-old construction worker, traveled to New Orleans in 2005 to help rebuild that city from Hurricane Katrina’s damage. With a similar disaster on the East Coast, it wasn’t long until he began working in New York City in a similar capacity.
He landed the job with a construction company through a friend in Moab who’s been with the firm for 20 years.
“They told me they were looking for some people and I jumped right on it,” Anderson said Monday by phone. “Two days later I was flying out here.”
He’s been restoration supervisor for crews of eight to 30 workers for the past three weeks.
Anderson is helping rebuild commercial buildings in the Ground Zero and Wall Street areas, although he said he isn’t allowed to disclose specific addresses.
He earlier worked in Howard Beach, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Anderson, whose brother, Isaiah Flint, lives in Moab, is single so he can afford the time away from home. How long will his work continue in the Big Apple?
“It might be three or four days,” he said, “or it might be three or four more months.”
Anderson said he isn’t permitted to name the company employing him, but said the work is under the auspices of the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
He’s seen the storm’s destruction first-hand.
“There were a lot of water levels, from 1 foot to basements fully engulfed,” he said. “Some places the water level was 6 feet high in the first floor and some places the water level was 18 feet.”
Some of the buildings must be demolished before reconstruction can begin, he said. Others can be salvaged.
Anderson said national television networks have done lots of filming where his crews are working, although construction company officials forbid the employees to be interviewed. Anderson talked with The Times-Independent with special permission.
An exact cleanup cost isn’t known yet. Although some of the cost will be covered by insurance and FEMA, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked for $9.8 billion in federal aid to help rebuild. The New York Daily News reported that New York Gov. Andrew Cuoma has estimated it will take $42 billion to repair the statewide damage.
Private companies apparently aren’t reducing prices that emergency workers pay for housing, at least in New York City. Anderson said his room at the Hampton Inn in Times Square costs $485 per night.
He said the lack of construction activity in Moab was one factor in his decision to work in New York.
“It’s good experience, good for my resume,” he added.
But Anderson said the satisfaction of helping out is important, too. He feels good about the work, he said.