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Oakwood Beach, S.I. Residents Set To Return Neighborhood To Mother Nature

Neighborhood Was Virtually Leveled By Superstorm Sandy A Year Ago

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A day short of a year since Superstorm Sandy hit, residents were still feeling very much under siege in Oakwood Beach, Staten Island.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported Monday night, a plaque unveiled at the local VFW post has the names of 24 Staten Island residents who died in the storm. The commander of the post has added up all the rising costs in a neighborhood that is getting smaller all the time.

Photos: Sandy One Year Later

“Kissam Avenue had 17 houses — 13 of them picked up off their foundations. They’re gone. They’re not coming back,” said VFW Post 9587 Cmdr. John Hoganacki. “About 140 houses — they’ll be taking the buyout, and we had three fatalities around the corner.

Oakwood, Staten Island VFW Post

Staten Island residents of Superstorm Sandy are honored at VFW Post 9587. (Credit: Lou Young/CBS 2)

Much of the neighborhood has given up on rebuilding, as there has been no real improvement in the neighborhood over the past year. Where homes once stood, there are only tall weeds, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.

The state is buying up whole stretches of homes closes to the water, knocking down whatever Sandy left standing and returning the land to its natural state.

The next time the ocean rises, it will not find Daniella Mancuso waiting.

“Basically, I’m just happy to have money to pay off my mortgage and have money to move into something new,” Mancuso said. “I’m not getting rich off it.”

And she is not alone. Every single homeowner in one stretch of Oakwood Beach has decided to take a buyout.

“We have to move on with our lives,” said Pedro Correa. “We have to put this chapter to bed.”

CBS 2 met Correa where his home used to be. A tire swing hanging in a tree and his daughter’s tricycle in the old pool are the only reminders of the life he and his family had in the community.

“It was like having a country home in New York City,” Correa said. “It was quiet here. We went to sleep listening to the ocean.”

But that same ocean that many loved has now become the greatest fear of residents in the area. Chopper 2 HD hovered high above the area last year after the storm last year, showing homes by the dozen that were destroyed by the waves whipped ashore by Sandy.

The ocean submerged the neighborhood under 16 feet of water.

But a year later, Correa and about 300 homeowners are getting a new start.

“We all wanted to go, or at least the majority wanted to leave, so it was very easy for them to say Oakwood Beach will be the first buyout,” Correa said.

Some residents had difficult with the decision, even though they felt they had no choice.

“It’s very hard to get past the hurt,” said Evelyn Komamik. “It’s your home. Your friends are here. Your neighbors are here.”

Jackie Spagnuolo’s grandmother was one of the 24 Staten Islanders who perished in the storm.

“People would actually want to live next to the ocean. Thinking about it, but who wants to now?” she said. “It’s scary.”

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