At the tail end of October 2012, the nation and the world watched as the innocuously-named Superstorm Sandy made landfall across New York City. Lashing rain, hurricane-force winds, massive flooding, fire and power outages wreaked havoc on communities from the east end of Long Island to the Far Rockaways to Tribeca to Breezy Point, Queens. Parts of Staten Island were destroyed and lives lost, many in the neighborhood of South Beach in Staten Island, and thousands of residents in Lower Manhattan were plunged into darkness when an electrical transformer exploded on the East River, cutting power to a third of the island.
Sandy was responsible for $70 billion in damages (the vast majority of which were in New York and New Jersey), making it the second costliest storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina sacked New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005. It’s been over a year since the storm pummeled New York City, and although billions of dollars in aid has been promised to rebuild devastated areas, many affected residents have yet to replace what the floodwaters swept away. Thousands of displaced New Yorkers and New York State residents are still fighting with insurance companies, slogging through red tape, waiting for government aid—and in many cases, just waiting to return home.
A Slow Recovery
“Staten Island was the most devastated of the communities of Hurricane Sandy. We had the most houses hit and the most houses destroyed,” says David Sorkin, co-chair of the New York Rising Planning Committee on Staten Island.
“It's one year later, and rebuilding is slow in happening. There are still communities here that are not livable yet. Some of these people are living with relatives, some have had to leave Staten Island, some are in houses that are not completely put together yet, some are in rental properties. Very, very few are in hotels. Most of them have found secondary living opportunities.”
Sorkin also notes that with the help of charity organizations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local realtors, locating temporary housing for residents displaced by the storm was a transition that happened quickly. “There aren’t a lot of large [multifamily] buildings on Staten Island,” he says. “So when you are looking for alternate housing for somebody, you're really looking for an apartment or house to rent, rather than a big building that may have 100 units empty. Our needs on Staten Island are unique.”