LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Residents and businesses on Long Island continue to recover a year after Superstorm Sandy devastated many areas in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Evidence of Sandy’s wrath still remains in communities across Long Island. Nearly 100,000 buildings were destroyed in the storm, causing more than $8 billion in damage. Parts of the Long Island Rail Road were washed away and permanent repairs won’t be finished for another five years.
After the storm hit, Long Beach was almost unrecognizable.
“Sand covered the streets, houses were off foundations, trucks were upended,” City Council President Scott Mandel told WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs. “It looked like the ending of a very bad war movie.”
“I think the most significant moment for me was when I saw approximately 14 feet of our boardwalk, with railing still attached, sitting in the Waldbaums parking lot which is a good six blocks away from the ocean,” Mandel said.
EXTENDED COVERAGE: Superstorm Sandy — One Year Later
But if you drive through Long Beach now, it looks almost normal, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
The iconic 2.2-mile boardwalk is back and better than ever and most houses have been repaired or rebuilt.
Long Beach resident Eileen Clark had 20 inches of water on the ground floor of her home and said the past year has given her a better outlook on life.
“I’m definitely more grateful and I realize the things that I have I’m very happy with and appreciative,” Clark said.
But as CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, serious problems continued to plague Long Beach a year later. Mandel estimates 15 to 20 percent of homeowners have not returned and many businesses remain vacant.
And some residents have struggled to put back together their lives.
“We can’t rely upon insurance. We can’t rely upon the banks. We can’t rely upon government,” said Long Beach resident Sam Gallo.
Gallo is among the Long Beach residents still not home, untangling a web of insurance and bank rules only to get half of the money needed to rebuild.
“We honestly believed we would be home by June, and we will be lucky if we get in by next June,” Gallo said.
The Deely family was in their third temporary home a year after Sandy. They had just started to rebuild and were still waiting for flood insurance.
“I have small children,” said Allison Deely. “I needed my life back; I just couldn’t fight them anymore.”
Sean Sullivan rebuilt his Swingbellys BBQ restaurant, but was still waiting a year after Sandy for all the customers to come back.
“I think it will be a long time ’til we are back to where we were pre-storm,” Sullivan said.
The hospital also remains closed.
“There are ongoing negotiations,” Mandel said. “We’re happy that they’re moving forward with it, we’re standing behind it, we’re pushing for it. We need it sooner rather than later; we needed it yesterday.”
But Mandel stresses the city continues to make progress.
“We’ve had new businesses come in to the city who actually were never here before, but heard about Long Beach, saw what was happening here, saw the resurgence and wanted to be a part of it,” Mandel said.
Long Beach City Council vice president Fran Adelson also expressed optimism.
“I don’t want to say everyone is doing wonderful, but new people have come. Store owners have come to Long beach; new people looking to invest here,” Adelson said.
And resident Kevin McAdams – who spoke to CBS 2 when his house was buried in 6 feet of sand – said the storm has reinforced as much as it destroyed.
“It proves when somebody gets knocked down, you really do have somebody to pick you up; that you really do have strong neighbors that are there for you,” he said.
Hope And Frustration In Lindenhurst
As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, a man named Tony said he’s still not back in his house and doesn’t know when he will be.
“Well, we hope to but you know it’s a mostly out-of-pocket expense. The insurance companies have really been miserable,” he said.
He said pieces of his neighbor’s house crushed part of his home that he’s owned for 23 years.
“My engineer tells me I’ve got $70,000 worth of foundation damage due to the storm but my insurance company doesn’t recognize that,” said Tony.
As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, South 8th Street floods so easily that the street itself has been raised a few times.
Following Sandy, many residents are raising their houses to prevent future flooding.
“They’re actually going up like popcorn on this block, but some of them had been raised just prior to the storm,” one resident said. “I’d love to raise my family in this community and I’m willing to make the personal investment it takes to storm- and weatherproof my house.”
A Spirit Of Community In Freeport
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, the Nassau County community of Freeport was among slammed hard by Sandy. In the year since, residents have been standing united and working together to rebuild since the storm.
A year ago, the iconic Nautical Mile in Freeport was swallowed by fire and saltwater. Cars became fish tanks, boats slammed into homes, and businesses went under.
But while the rebound has been slow, it also has been profound. Workers at the Triumph Systems of Freeport aerospace factory on the Nautical Mile were looking back Tuesday.
Through it all, the 60 employees at the factory never lost a paycheck when the factory was flooded and forced to shut down. Workers credited the owner’s family spirit, loyalty and generosity.
“This is a very emotional day, because we have gone through such a devastating tragedy here with this company completely under water,” said Triumph Systems chief executive officer Rick Reed.
One year later, the triumphant reopening was not lost on mechanic Tom Kenny, who lost everything both at home and at work.
“There’s a bright spot,” he said. “My daughter’s having a baby, and my son is getting married.”
But while bright spots were visible, losses remained close at hand a year later.
Across the South Shore village, 4,000 homes were flooded, and a year later, 500 remained vacant. A total of 100 were still awaiting demolition.
But Freeport municipal officials said progress will soon go ahead.
“We have ‘Friends of Freeport’ who have come out — a volunteer group of 40 or 50 individuals — come out every week, completely gut the homes,” said Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy.
And it was volunteers, not the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who helped the oldest restaurant on the Woodcleft Canal rebound. Otto’s Restaurant has finally reopened.
“Although one part of your life has put back together, the puzzle is still not complete,” said Ilona Jagnow of Otto’s Restaurant. “This wreaked havoc on our whole town; our whole area.”
Down the block, the Barriga family could not give enough praise to the spirit of recovery they saw in their local fishmonger, Captain Ben’s Seafood.
“All of us were affected, all of us,” said Carmen Barriga. “To see that they are making it nicer and better really is wonderful.”
“People cared about one another,” added Jerry Bracco of Captain Ben’s. “Everybody pitched in to help each other. Anybody who needed anything, they all stuck together.”
An Eye Toward Tomorrow
Other parts of Long Island are also moving forward and looking to the future.
Nassau County has bought new rescue and recovery equipment that’s described as crucial for weather-related emergencies. County Executive Edward P. Mangano said they include solar-powered traffic signal trailers and message signs that won’t fail during power outages. The purchases also include high-axel vehicles; and new radios designed to improve communications between first responders.
The American Red Cross has also awarded $2.35 million in grants for Superstorm Sandy relief on Long Island.
The Community Development Corporation of Long Island, LLC, is getting $2 million. It will distribute the money to 325 households on Long Island that were flooded by Sandy and are now in need of mold remediation.
The Red Cross also is giving a $350,000 grant to the United Way of Long Island.
The United Way will use the money for sub-grants to community groups. The organizations will provide assistance with housing, social services and other support projects.
The Red Cross said it has received $308 million in donations for Sandy emergency relief and recovery efforts. As of Sept. 30, it says $280 million, or more than 90 percent, has been distributed.
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