HOPE AND PROGRESS IN THE ROCKAWAYS
On Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Belle Harbor, a whole block has been bulldozed. A section of Belle Harbor and Breezy Point burned down when a fire swept through after the storm.
As CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu recalled, more than 100 homes burned to the ground during the fire – an electrical blaze that started in one of the homes.
By the time firefighters were able to reach the houses, it was too late.
“If you go up my block now, all the houses have been demolished and removed,” resident Ray Marten said. “They’re pretty much just holes in the ground. Sand pits.”
“The air is horrible. We still have the same sludge that was there. It might be low but we have it,” Mary Burke told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
She said more stores are reopening every week, but business seems slow everywhere.
“I think it’s a little bit better, but long timers are still moving out,” she said.
The Lepera family of Breezy Point has been renting a home in Franklin Square, waiting to rebuild the home Joanne Lepera was born in.
“When it was still in ruins, it definitely was a lot tougher now that it’s like clean land. It’s almost like hope,” Lepera said.
With so much wiped out in the area, something that really stands out were some colorful stars made by the local children. They sported words such “hope,” “faith” and “rebuild,” as they hung throughout the neighborhood.
Breezy Point is a place where everyone knows everyone.
“On our walks, families have had the house there for, I’d say, 40-plus years,” said Nancy Levins.
Levins has been a block captain for more than a decade, and has been trying her best to keep everyone connected — through email.
“It’s been incredible. You can’t imagine how incredible,” she said. “I’m going to start crying.”
Shortly after the fire, Hsu interviewed Kieran and Jennifer Burke. Jennifer was 3 months pregnant when they lost their home.
On Monday, the family was back, with 2-year-old Kieran, and Matthew Patrick. who was born two weeks ago. While the family has been struggling with government and insurance red tape to rebuild, they said Breezy Point is where the boys will grow up.
“He’ll be back mayor of the block, running up and down showing his brother the ways of Breezy,” Jennifer Burke said.
By many measures, remarkable progress has been made in Breezy Point. Boardwalks, the tourism lifeblood of the region, are springing back to life.
A handful of homes are going up, and the whine of power saws and the thwack of hammers is everywhere in hard-hit beach towns as contractors fix what can be saved and bulldozers knock down what can’t.