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BayFest to highlight post-Sandy recovery

Brooklyn Daily

Come for the services, stay for the music.

For the past three years, Brooklyn lovers of free music have flocked to Emmons Avenue to enjoy BayFest, the Bay Improvement Group’s annual spring seaside concert. But this year, as coastal residents of Kings County continue to struggle in the wake of October’s hurricane, BayFest’s organizers expect the new offering of free recovery services to replace complimentary tunes as the festival’s main attraction on May 19.

“I think this year they’ll come for the Sandy recovery and stay for the music,” said Laura McKenna, executive director of the Bay Improvement Group. “Because everybody’s trying to get back on their feet.”

To help bridge the gap between destitution and recovery, McKenna has solicited dozens of community service providers, religious organizations, and pro bono legal advisors to set up stalls on Emmons Avenue and provide a one-stop shop for home owners seeking help.

“What everyone complains about is they have to make all these phone calls to get the things they need,” said McKenna. “So, we’re bringing them all to one place, so people can get as many of their needs fulfilled as possible.“

So far, 16 organizations have pledged to attend, assuring BayFest will be well-stocked with free services. For some organizations, eligibility for their services is income-based.

Of course, the big event hasn’t been completely hijacked by the hurricane. McKenna, group president Steve Barrison, Jack Spadarro, and other group members have screened more than 1,600 applicants to ensure only the best bands grace the BayFest stage.

“We’ve been meeting every single night, seven days a week, until 2 am in the morning,” said Barrison. “It’s like our own American Idol.”

The group is still making selections, but a number of exciting bands have already been chosen, including Diamond One Hot Night. Considered the nation’s — if not the world’s — best Neil Diamond tribute band, some say the band is better than the real thing.

“Some famous people have been quoted as saying, ‘they sound better than Neil Diamond’,” Barrison explained.

Drivers be aware that Emmons Avenue will be closed to traffic May 19 from E. 27th Street to Bedford Avenue to make way for one of Brooklyn’s hottest — free — tickets this summer.

“It’s gonna be huge,” said Barrison.

The following organizations have pledged to attend BayFest:

• American Red Cross: Case management including housing assistance, appliances, financial aid, referrals

• Asian Americans for Equality: Loans and grants

• Brighton Neighborhood Association: Mold remediation and other assistance

• Brooklyn Jubilee: Pro bono legal assistance

• Brooklyn Long-Term Recovery Group: Referrals

• Catholic Charities: Case management

• Coney Island Hospital medical van: Free checkup with a doctor

• Lutheran Social Services: Case management and referrals

• Met Council: Case management and referrals

• Neighborhood Housing Services: Foreclosure prevention, mortgage assistance, first-time buyer support, loans

• Neighborhood Revitalization Program: Mold remediation

• NYS Energy Audits: Free insulation, appliances, weatherization

• NY Mortgage Coalition: Foreclosure prevention, mortgage assistance, legal support

• Operation HOPE: Insurance counseling, financial management guidance and support

• Project HOPE: Counseling, and emotional and psychological support

• YaDestiny Treasure Chest: Children’s clothing

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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