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Mets players cheer on Habitat volunteers

Superstar Mets catcher Mike Piazza looked a bit out of his element hammering nails into the wall of a house under construction.

"I can hit a baseball moving 90 miles per hour, but I can't hit a nail standing still," Piazza told teammate Derrick Bell at a house being renovated by Habitat For Humanity at 131-06 Sutter Ave. in South Ozone Park.

Five players from the New York Mets were at the house Friday afternoon to cheer on volunteers for the New York City Chapter of Habitat For Humanity in their one-week "Building on Faith" campaign to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr from Jan. 15 through Jan. 23.

Volunteers from 35 houses of worship, 14 of which are in Queens, teamed up to build or renovate six houses in Queens, including three in Jamaica, two in St. Albans, and one in South Ozone Park.

Newly acquired players Todd Zeile and Bobby Jones were also in the crowded house along with returning veterans Al Leiter and John Franco. Many of the Mets players were in town for the week to promote ticket sales and participate in several community functions.

"I'm the only construction worker that ever wore a Rolex to work," Bell said as he helped lift a box containing cabinet shelves.

"It's been a while since I've done this kind of stuff," Piazza said.

Executive Director Roland Lewis said many of the volunteers took one or several days off from work to help with hanging and taping drywall, priming and painting walls and ceilings, installing doors and various other tasks.

Habitat for Humanity was founded by former President Jimmy Carter in 1984 and aims to address the issue of affordable housing throughout the nation. Each adult in a Habitat partner family must devote 250 hours of work, dubbed sweat equity, toward the construction of their future house and another Habitat project in lieu of a down payment on a home.

Kaaba Chennault, a 43-year-old registered nurse, is set to move into the home with her four children in early March. Chennault did not mind the added commotion the Mets players brought to the already-crowded house.

"I really love this," said Chennault, who for the past two years has lived with her three children in a one-bedroom apartment in Jamaica. In addition to not having to make a monetary down payment on their home, Habitat partners have an interest-free mortgage payment plan.

Mary Pat said when the Mets office contacted the organization about participating in the "Building on Faith" project, they jumped at the chance.

"We appreciate anything that will help shine the light on the issue of affordable housing," Pat said.

"In addition to substantially completing these seven homes, alongside our partner families, our goals for the week are to unite people of good will and faith across race, ethnic, religious and geographic boundaries to build community," said Lewis.

The six homes were previously vacant and in deteriorating condition. They were transferred to Habitat by the New York City Housing Authority and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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