NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A year after Superstorm Sandy catastrophically flooded hundreds of miles of eastern U.S. coastline, thousands of people still trying to fix their soaked and surf-battered homes are being stymied by bureaucracy, insurance disputes and uncertainty over whether they can even afford to rebuild.
Billions of dollars in federal aid appropriated months ago by Congress have yet to reach homeowners who need that money to move on. Many have found flood insurance checks weren’t nearly enough to cover the damage.
And worse, new federal rules mean many in high-risk flood zones may have to either jack their houses up on stilts or pilings _ an expensive, sometimes impossible task _ or face new insurance rates that hit $10,000 or more per year.
“It’s just been such a terrible burden,” said Gina Maxwell, whose home in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., is still a wreck after filling with 4 feet of water. Contractors say it will cost $270,000 to rebuild _ about double what the insurance paid out. The family doesn’t have the money.
“What do we do with this house? Just give them the deed back?” she said. “My son is 11. He has a little piggy bank in his room. He said, `Take it, mom.”’
In blue-collar Union Beach, N.J., the owner of the popular restaurant Jakeabob’s Bay has come up with only a quarter of the $2 million she needs to rebuild.
“One of those things that we protected ourselves with was insurance and they are simply not there,” Jakeabob’s owner Gee Gee Dorr said.
Dorr told 1010 WINS reporter Gary Baumgarten that the new tabletops at Jakeabobs are made from the doors of houses that were destroyed during the storm, a tribute to Union Beach.
In Long Beach, a barrier-island city of 33,000 on the coast of New York’s Long Island, residents in some neighborhoods say half their neighbors have yet to return.
“I don’t think Long Beach is ever going to be what it was,” said resident Ginger Matthews.
Insurance Rate Hikes Hurt Many On Staten Island
Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm has been fighting for flood insurance rate reform for his Sandy battered residents, WCBS 880′s Jim Smith reported.
Congressional reforms made prior to the storm have sent flood insurance rates through the roof, according to the Congressman.
“We’re seeing rate hikes. The highest I saw today was $37,000,” Grimm said.
Grimm said that residents can’t afford the hikes and that some Sandy victims are being charged for homes that no longer exist.
On Tuesday Grimm’s bill will be introduced in the House along with a companion bill in the Senate. The bills would roll back rate hikes while FEMA finds a new way to calculate.
Until those bills are passed residents may still have to pay at inflated prices but could seek reimbursement at a later time.
Walking In Sandy’s Path
Some of those affected by Sandy will complete a 21-mile walk at City Hall on Sunday.
The group began their journey on Saturday morning by trekking from Far Rockaway to Howard Beach, they picked a patch that will take them through areas that were hit hard by the storm.
The message behind the walk is that Sandy relief money should be used to create good jobs and affordable housing, group members said.
“Resiliency needs to mean more than just sand dunes and storm barriers and sea walls. It needs to mean investments that reduce economic inequality and make communities whole again,” one walker said.
The group plans to arrive at City Hall around 4:30 on Sunday afternoon to hold a rally.
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