October 27, 2013

One year later: Superstorm Sandy’s path still scene of devastation

Challenges to rebuilding include inadequate or unreleased funds and new federal construction requirements.

By David B. Caruso
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A postal worker makes his rounds through Breezy Point in the Queens borough of New York on Oct. 17. A year ago on Oct. 29 flooding and a fire swept through the neighborhood, leveling more than 100 homes. The house on the right is one of the few homes that burned to the ground that is now under reconstruction.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SANDY’S TOLL

CONNECTICUT

DEATHS: 6

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: More than 600,000 customers lost power. Federal assistance, loans and insurance claims worth more than $280 million have been paid out.

MARYLAND

DEATHS: 11

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: As recently as January, Baltimore County was added to a federal disaster declaration, allowing assistance to be sought there.

MASSACHUSETTS

DEATHS: None

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: The storm caused strong winds and heavy surf and cut power to more than 300,000 homes and businesses.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEATHS: 1

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: Nearly 180,000 homes and business lost power.

NEW JERSEY

DEATHS: 71

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: More than $5.6 billion in federal assistance has been paid.

NEW YORK

DEATHS: 68, including 44 in New York City

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: More than $8 billion has been approved in state and federal assistance to homeowners, renters, businesses, government agencies and nonprofits.

PENNSYLVANIA

DEATHS: 12

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: Wind and flooding closed dozens of bridges and roads as the center of the dissipating storm traveled across the state. More than $3.8 million in federal and state funding has been paid.

WEST VIRGINIA

DEATHS: 7

DAMAGE AND RECOVERY: As much as 3 feet of snow fell, and 270,000 homes and businesses lost power.

The federal government has responded by pouring money into the region.

The Small Business Administration authorized $2.4 billion in disaster loans to more than 36,000 households and businesses, though it has paid out only about a quarter of that to date as storm victims have tried to figure out whether they can or should take on more debt. FEMA gave $1.42 billion to help storm victims pay rent, replace lost possessions and make emergency repairs. The agency gave another $2.7 billion to help municipalities clean up debris, repair critical infrastructure and reopen damaged hospitals. The federal flood insurance program paid $7.8 billion to nearly 132,000 policyholders who sustained damage during the storm.

But for some people, is hasn’t been enough. Many had no flood insurance. And the process of getting federal aid money into people’s hands has been slow.

First, the states had to build homeowner aid programs from scratch. Then it had to accept and process many thousands of applications, while navigating numerous federal rules and reviews.

Seth Diamond, director of storm recovery for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the delays caused some homeowners to doubt that the program was real. But he said bureaucratic hurdles are getting resolved.

hopeful signs

“We’ve gotten to the point where we can release money,” he said.

New York state sent letters this month to 4,300 homeowners on Long Island, saying they had qualified for a collective $452 million in federally funded, state-administered rebuilding grants. The average award was $112,000 – a godsend to people who had put off reconstructing their homes because they weren’t sure how to pay for the work.

New Jersey’s parallel rebuilding program began notifying 4,100 people of eligibility for similar grants at around the same time, with plans to eventually award $600 million.

On New York City’s beachfront enclave of Breezy Point, new homes are beginning to rise after many months of inactivity on the sandy blocks where fire burned 130 houses and flooding destroyed another 220.

“There’s hope. Things are finally starting to happen,” said police Capt. Roy Richter, as he watched a new house going up. He hopes to be back home – in a house elevated 7 feet higher than his old one – by St. Patrick’s Day.

In Seaford Harbor, N.Y., auto mechanic Michael Serpico prepared to move into a camper in his driveway while contractors tear down his ruined home and build him a new one.

“Hopefully in six more months,” he said, “I’ll live like a human being again.”

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