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What a find! Build It Back unearths Gerritsen Beach treasure

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Call it a blast from the pasteurizer.

Workers unearthed a treasure trove of antique milk bottles when fixing a Gerritsen Beach woman’s Sandy-damaged home, and the discovery brought her right back to her childhood, she said.

“These ones are Borden’s. They made cheese, but also when I was a child, they made milk and it used to come in the glass bottles,” said homeowner Joanne Isgro. “They kept pulling bottles out and they said to me, ‘Do you want these? You’ll clean them?’ And I said, ‘Are you kidding me? You watch me clean them.’ ”

Workers removed seven antique milk bottles while elevating Isgro’s Melba Court home as part of the federally funded, city-run Build It Back disaster-recovery program.

Isgro’s in-laws moved into the home in 1947, rearing six children there before Isgro and her husband Kevin moved in about 30 years ago to raise their own family. Knowing how much milk her husband and his siblings drank as young’uns, it was no surprise to Isgro that so many bottles popped up out of the earth.

“I remember my mother-in-law saying to me 100 times, ‘I should have had a cow,’ ” Isgro said.

The bottles now sit on the window sill of her neighbor’s basement, where Isgro and her husband are living until they can move back into their own home, she said.

The Build it Back contractors also dug up old-fashioned 7-Up bottles and an old, glass medicine bottle with a cork in it — but the heirlooms are icing on the cake compared to the work the program has done for Isgro’s home, she said.

“Build it Back has been wonderful, and so has [contractor] Navesink,” she said. “They are wonderful people. They are very kind, and they help me every step of the way with all the questions I need answered,” she said.

The program got off to a rocky start in 2013, but Mayor DeBlasio re-tooled the effort in 2014 when almost no work had begun nearly two years after the storm. Since then, work has picked up speed in Gerritsen, where locals’ only complaint seems to be that there is too much reconstruction happening.

The program has reimbursed 128 neighborhood homeowners who spearheaded their own reconstruction, officials said. Contractors have fixed 32 homes and begun construction on about 100 more, a spokesman said.

Isgro and her husband moved out for construction crews in October, and they’re eagerly anticipating a July return — when the whole clan will help them move back in and resume their life, Isgro said.

“I can’t wait — because my two daughters, my two son-in-laws, and six grand kids will help us move all in back in,” she said. “I can’t wait.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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