Six months later, New York still recovering from Sandy's wrath
The recovery from Superstorm Sandy's wrath six months ago has produced successes offset by frustrations for the hardest hit areas of New York City.
Coney Island's iconic Cyclone has opened. Most of the South Street Seaport has not.
Hundreds of homes are gone or in such disarray that they won't be back until long after the summer is over.
Businesses remain boarded up and owners who have rebounded still wait with frustration for the $60 billion in federal aid.
Residents say life scarcely resembles what existed before Oct. 29, when the storm tore through the Big Apple, killing 43 in the city, wrecking homes and sending parts of the area into darkness.
Despite the despair and murky future, however, the storm's victims say they are hopeful that they will be able to ride out the tumult together and come out stronger than ever.
"There's a hell of a lot to do, but we got to be positive," said Marco Pasanella, 50, whose South Street Seaport building that houses his family, other tenants and his wine shop, Pasanella & Son, Vintners, was ravaged by flooding.
(Photo: South Beach, Staten Island by Anthony Lanzilote)
Sandy devastated several neighborhoods in Staten Island, including Midland Beach, Tottenville and South Beach.
Even homes and businesses that were far away from the coast suffered damage from wind, debris and flooding. Many buildings ended up uninhabitable and had to be torn down.
State Sen. Diane Savino said the reminders of that day are still visible on her streets.
“If you go down some blocks, everything looks back to normal, and then you drive down and you see a lot of damage,” she said.
Although many houses and institutions are back up and running today, the senator said economics have made the recovery uneven.
“If you look at some of the [recovering] communities, they are not ones of high wealth,” she said. “Some people here are two to three paychecks from financial disaster.”
For some home and business owners, such as the ones along South Beach, it was easy to get the funding and resources to rebuild, but others are still waiting.
Many residents can never go back to their homes and have no idea where to begin to either rebuild or find a new place to live.
The only silver lining that the senator can see is that residents will continue to ban together and lend a helping hand during the summer months, especially the dozens of construction-related businesses in the borough.
“It’s created a boom in the economy for the building trades,” Savino said.
South Street Seaport
(Photo Credit: Nancy Borowick)
A few blocks from the hustle and bustle of Wall Street is a virtual ghost town. When Sandy struck, water flooded the streets in Battery Park City, the Financial District and the South Street Seaport for weeks, wrecking homes and infrastructure.
Marco Pasanella, who lives above his wine store with his wife, Rebecca Robertson, 38, and their son Luca, 7, said it was surreal watching the storm from his fifth-floor apartment.
Besides his family, two other tenants stayed in the building that night and watched first as the 6-foot surge flooded their street and then the first floor where the winery is located. It got scarier after the power went out.
“I didn’t fear for my life until 11 p.m. when I saw nothing but flashlights in the windows,” Rebecca Robertson said.
Catherine McVey-Hughes, the chairwoman of Manhattan’s Community Board 1, which covers most of downtown Manhattan, said most residents outside of the seaport are back to normal. But parts of the seaport still lack power, data services and other amenities. Stormproofing is being explored.
“We have to make sure that if a power plant goes out at 34th Street, power shouldn’t go out in lower Manhattan,” she said.
Virtually all of the shops at the South Street Seaport are still boarded up and have crews removing waterlogged equipment. There’s no sign of when things will be back to normal.
Pasanella and his wife said they worked round-the-clock to get their wine shop up and running and as of last week, their store is one of the few that are in good shape.
The owner said business has been sluggish because of the fact that the rest of the shops are dark and waiting for federal funding.
Ultimately, Pasanella said he feels optimistic about the future of his neighborhood, which he moved to in 2002, because it has bounced back from tougher times before.
“I do see a comeback and we’ll definitely have that momentum returning,” he said.
(Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)
Mother Nature left a huge mark on Brooklyn’s iconic beach neighborhood when Sandy hit.
Parts of the boardwalk suffered damage, the mom and pops on the beach — including Denny’s Delight — had to close because they couldn’t afford the repairs and hundreds of residents lost their homes.
Despite the devastation, Chuck Reichenthal, the district manager of Community Board 13, said the neighborhood has made strides over the last six months.
“The unity that was created after the storm is still there, but we have to help people who haven’t been able to finish their work,” he said.
Last month, the Cyclone and Luna Park opened for business after months of work and renovation and the crowds have been huge, according to Reichenthal. The beach will be able to handle visitors come Memorial Day; Reichenthal said there would be new lifeguard stations and bathrooms.
The Cyclones will be able to play their season at MCU Park; however, the outfield surface will be artificial turf.
“All of those are positive,” he said.
Still, the district manager said there is a long road until his community is back to 100%. Several buildings have internal damage and some homes have sporadic problems when it comes to electricity, gas and other utilities.
“I can look outside and see one day Con Ed is back, KeySpan is back, another day Cablevision is back. It’s a slow process,” Reichenthal, a lifelong Coney Island resident, said.
Money is the other major factor.
While scores of businesses wait for the federal money, they’re scared of taking more loans and going into debt that will last for decades.
“It’s a big question mark for the people here,” Reichenthal said.
Queens had the most damage, financially, of the five boroughs. Sandy cost $483 million as of last week, according to FEMA. The southern neighborhoods of the borough — from the Rockaways to Howard Beach — saw a series of horrors on Oct. 29, from flooding and downed trees to power outages that lasted for a good part of November.
Dan Mundy, 74, a lifelong Broad Channel resident, said while Tropical Storm Irene was fresh on everyone’s mind, there was nothing that could prepare them for the long haul of recovering from Sandy.
“You can see the stress on people’s faces even today,” he said.
Although LIPA restored power to the peninsula, several homes still couldn’t get their electricity because of damage to their internal wiring.
Jonathan Gaska, the district manager of Community Board 14, which covers the Rockaways, said the city’s rapid-repairs program, which fast-tracked contractors who did free repair work for Sandy-affected areas, was a big help in terms of getting houses wired and heated.
“It really gave a leg up for thousands of homeowners to get some semblance of a normal life,” he said.
Gaska said the boardwalk won’t be back anytime soon and that area businesses are concerned about the summer.
He also couldn’t give a timetable as to when Breezy Point families can return. Most of the community where more than 100 homes went up in flames is still a burned wasteland.
Mundy, who has been helping his neighbors nonstop since October, doubted that his community will be back to its normal self by the summer.
He remarked that he’s never seen any of his fellow peninsula residents let the stress get to them and said that resolve will help make the recovery go smoother.
“It’s amazing what a human can endure and they’ve been doing it for six months now,” he said.
Help from FEMA
So far, FEMA has doled out about $1.1 billion to the five boroughs for Superstorm Sandy-related expenses. The federal agency has given out money as part of its Individuals and Households Program, which reimburses applicants for losses not covered by insurance, and its housing assistance program to help displaced families. The agency also covers other expenses.
More money is on the way from the federal government, but here’s what’s been distributed
Applicants: 5,082, $5.9M
Applicants: 52,524, $425.7M
Applicants: 21,604, $29.4M
Applicants: 54,826, $483.1M
Applicants: 21,044, $198.5M
The vast majority of the city’s subway system was up and running in the days and weeks after Superstorm Sandy ravaged it, but six months later two areas remain shuttered.
The A train on the Rockaways: This was the most heavily damaged area in the system, and some parts of this section were five to six feet under water during Sandy. The MTA has been running the free H shuttle between the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station and the Beach 90 Street station to make up for the lack of service. Although much progress has been made toward restoration, the repair job is extremely complex and the agency declines to give a completion time other than aiming for this summer.
No. 1 train at South Ferry station: The MTA cured many commuters’ headaches earlier this month when it reopened the old South Ferry station, a temporary solution that will allow No. 1 trains to reach the area for the first time since Sandy. However, the new station – which opened in 2009 and cost a reported $500 million – was practically leveled by the superstorm, and it may take years for the agency to fully restore it.
(Photo Credit: Charles Eckert)