The following was written on August 26, 2014 by Susan Axelrod, founder of Love & Quiches, based in the Village of Freeport, NY. Susan regularly writes on her blog, Susan’s Sweet Talk. Susan’s views are her own, and do not represent those of The Foggiest Idea.
I never expected to be blogging yet one more time about Hurricane Sandy, but my husband Irwin and I had an experience last week that brought it all home again with a shattering thud.
Last Saturday, I had a dentist’s appointment early in the morning on Long Island; even though we moved to the city 6 years ago I still use my same dentist. So, finding ourselves in the suburbs so early we decided to drive slowly back to the city through Far Rockaway, and the Rockaways, where both of us were brought up, and where some of the most devastating damage was sustained. Whoa, what we saw was very hard to process. Parts of these areas have been on a downswing for years anyway, in spite of being at the edge of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, but we saw, in most places, not even the beginnings of restoration. What was destroyed will stay that way, it seems, for quite a few years to come.
Of course, coming to grips with soaring insurance costs, revamped flood hazard zoning maps, heightened standards for rebuilding, its costs, and so on will leave so many out in the cold, with no chance of ever returning to their homes. I guess in the last analysis some houses were situated where they should not have been and heightened building standards are needed, so we don’t have to ever see this movie again, but it hurts anyway.
New York City will be bulldozing hundreds of homes along the coast, and some even a bit inland, so heavily damaged, or already reduced to rubble, that they pose a danger to public safety and to other houses nearby. It’s the same all up and down the coast. On Staten Island, in certain areas, nearly half the houses were destroyed and the rest flooded. Many were ripped from their foundations and carried into the marsh. In Long Beach, on the south shore of Long Island, my niece restored her house and managed to work through an insurance nightmare; but of 35 homes on her block, only three are occupied. And on and on.
Just last week there was another Nor’easter that pounded Plum Island, off the northeast tip of Massachusetts. This barrier island, already made vulnerable by Hurricane Sandy, looked, in the photos, as if it was sitting in the ocean itself, with houses toppled all over the place. The truth is no matter how many sandbags, cement blocks, and what-have-you are piled up in the hope of protecting a piece of property, you cannot stop the ocean. Those homes still standing need to be moved back, way back, to get out of harm’s way. This is called managed retreat.
|The remains of Aunt Molly’s house post-Sandy.
Back in my New York personal world and last Saturday morning, we continued driving through these dismal streets toward Neponsit, where I grew up. This is a lovely well-kept area that was not spared any of the pain, either. We drove up and down so many streets and saw the same story over and over. Then we drove down 143rd Street and just stared. There was my Aunt Molly’s house (she is long gone), a sturdy solid brick house, reduced to nothing more than a pile of bricks. I had already seen photos of the devastation, but not until I was standing in front of the real thing was the actuality of it brought home. Irwin’s childhood home, which we drove past, was not so great either, but my childhood home (below left) looked as if restoration had begun, although it seemed to be sitting on the beach itself. But nothing I have seen so far these last few months quite prepared me for Aunt Molly’s home
|My childhood home in Neponsit post-Sandy.
where I had spent more of my childhood than I had in my own house.
On the economic and human front, there is some good and some bad news. Schools used as Disaster Recovery Units are reopening, some just very recently. One of them is St Francis de Sales in the Rockaways, where lots of my friends had attended elementary school, which reopened just a few short weeks ago .The lower half of Manhattan is also slowly recovering, but with many businesses gone forever, and with them, sadly, the jobs. But it has, nevertheless, become a very hot real estate boom town. Amazing! In New Jersey, Hoboken is still a mess with business down by half for those that remained open or reopened as the months went by. Red Hook in Brooklyn, which literally drowned in seawater, is coming back to life with the reopening of shops, restaurants and supermarkets.
The summer resort area rentals are shot for this summer. Who wants to rent a house that is still standing right next to a house two doors down that is a mere pile of rubble?
At Love and Quiches Desserts, we are grateful. We never lost a beat. But that wasn’t the case in so many places. Tens of thousands of jobs were lost as a result of the storm. I hope those jobs are restored as businesses recover, renovate and reopen. For recreation areas, beach clubs, and such, right up against the coast lines, things don’t look too good. These are facing a very long recovery. Especially with all the new rules for rebuilding coming fast and furiously, not to mention confusingly. And I suspect the violations and stop work orders will start coming fast and furiously, also, for those that just jumped in there to save their property. No good deed goes unpunished.
It will take years to cover all the scars, but it will happen, it always does.
Until next time…make someone happy —serve them dessert!