Horrific Fire Ripped Through 135 Homes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Ann Allen recalls meeting a woman who looked in disbelief at the Breezy Point site where more than 100 homes burned during superstorm Sandy.

“It reminded her of a graveyard,” Allen said.

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But as WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, there are signs of recovery in the Queens waterfront neighborhood a year later, although many residents have not returned.

One hundred thirty-five homes were lost in a flash when a horrific fire ripped through Breezy Point the night Sandy struck. There was barely any evidence of the houses’ existence except for concrete foundations. Miraculously, no one was killed.

Today, where there was once a smoldering pile of rubble, wood frames are rising.

“I’m very proud,” said Artie Lighthall, manager of the co-op that runs Breezy Point. “It’s been a long year, but we got through. … With the work that we’ve tried to do, it actually feels like it’s been more than (a year).”

Homes sit destroyed after superstorm Sandy on Oct. 30, 2012 in Breezy Point. (credit: Getty Images)

Homes sit destroyed after superstorm Sandy on Oct. 30, 2012 in Breezy Point. (credit: Getty Images)

“It’s nice to see the building because it’s progress, but it is a little overwhelming to say the least,” added Allen, who has rebuilt her home. “We’re trying to keep a good face on.”

The past year has been a trying one for residents. Joe Ganun said he thinks of it in phases.

“You start with everybody asking you how you made out,” he said. “And after about two weeks of that, you realize that no matter how banged up you got, the people who lost their homes made out worse.”

Photos: Sandy One Year Later

Ganun said he “locked that in my head that I could save the house.” In July, he returned to the neighborhood for a party and never left.

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“I knew once we got there and slept there that one night we’d never leave,” he said. “And we didn’t.”

Plenty of his neighbors, however, are nowhere to be found.

They “gutted the house and then just shut the doors and went away,” he said.

Allen, who along with her husband retired to Breezy Point six years ago, were among those who did return. Their white beachfront house is brand new again.

“It’s the last time we’re going to do this,” she said. “We’ll do it right. We’ll do what we want.

“Maybe next month, we’ll start buying furniture and stuff. But the house is livable.”

Rebuilding was far from easy. Many residents complained about navigating through the red tape that stood in their way of receiving financial assistance.

“It seems that every time you kind of weed your way through one layer of paperwork, somebody comes along and changes something, and you get another layer,” Lighthall said.

Added Ganun: “Toughest part of all of it was just having the wherewithal to just keep going back when it didn’t work and they lost your paperwork.”

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