Salt and Sea gets holiday reprieve

Mission workers: Hurricane Sandy is forcing us to close
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

An eviction-bound Coney Island charity received a Yuletide reprieve from its landlord, who postponed the bounce until after the New Year.

The 26-year-old Salt and Sea Mission was set to pack its bags and leave its longtime home at the corner of Mermaid Avenue and W. 16th Street by Thanksgiving, after Nino Russo — who also co-owns Sandy-shattered Gargiulo’s Restaurant a few blocks away — needed the space to make up for damaged sections of his historic dining establishment.

But Russo had a change of heart just before the holidays.

“We understand they need a little more time, and we don’t want to put them out for Christmas,” he said.

Mission founder Pastor Debbe Santiago, who runs programs for the homeless, at-risk youth, and battered women, was overcome by the gesture of goodwill.

“I’m so filled with joy,” she said. “To be able to breathe and to be there for the holidays, and do our work where we’ve always done it.”

Santiago said she is still trying to find a find a new spot for her organization which has struggled to stay open as donations have fallen in the flagging economy.

She added that Salt and Sea is also ineligible for further government aid without a permanent location.

“I pray to God every day that we find something,” said Santiago, herself a former homeless drug addict.

Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) said his office was trying to help the mission find a new space.

“We’re looking and trying to find something for Pastor Debbe, but nothing’s come up yet,” he said.

Russo said he felt bad having to turn out the group.

“I don’t want to do it, I try to do the best I can for the community, but I just lost my entire business,” he told the Courier in November.