On Staten Island, Residents Face a Hard Decision to Stay or Go

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stephen Drimalas surveys his flooded-out home in Ocean Breeze, Staten Island. (Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

President Barack Obama’s pointman for the region’s Sandy recovery told WNYC in an exclusive interview that the federal government wants storm-damaged coastline neighborhoods and towns to build back better and stronger.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan told WNYC it could take up to six months for the government to finalize its plan for buyouts, incentives and rebuilding with climate change in mind.

But for residents who want to rebuild or relocate in hard hit areas like Staten Island, answers are hard to come by at this stage in the recovery.

Before Sandy, Yasmin Ammirato lived in the same bungalow in Midland Beach for 47 years.

Since 1995, she has poured her energy and time into the neighborhood as head of the local civic association, but when Sandy destroyed her home, she decided to call it quits.

"It's killing me. It's breaking my heart. But I can't do it anymore," Ammirato said. "I became civic president to make the community better for my kids and everyone else, and now it's time to move on."

But not everyone wants to leave.

In nearby South Beach, Joe McCallister, president of the South Beach Civic Association, said residents who have been denied FEMA money or insurance money have no where to turn at this point.

"Nobody has an answer yet," he said. "That's the problem."

There are 200 to 250 homes in South Beach that are so damaged, they will need be bulldozed, he said.

Councilman James Oddo, who represents storm-ravaged areas like New Dorp and Midland Beach, said he’s not sure how Staten Island will change but it will be different to guard against another storm.

“The one outcome that we must all avoid is allowing people to build as was," Oddo said. "If government is complicit in facilitating the status quo, shame on all of us."


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Comments [2]

vmgillen from Staten Island

@sha44ss: "100-year storm" is statistic-jargon. It means that in any year there's a roughly 1% chance of a significant storm, based on averages. Clearly the average is changing, as the incidence rate increases. . . In any event, you can get three 100-year storms in a row, and if your home is destroyed it's 100%, not 1%. Part of the problem on Staten Island was the older beach bungalows, built for summer use but now used year-round; in many cases these homes have been used by the same family for generations, with entire blocks made up of relatives. The hurricane shredded our social fabric, and there are no easy solutions. However, we should certainly finger the building boom that encouraged development of sites that were already under water, designed willy-nilly by professionals who failed to acknowledge the basic standards needed in flood zones, and/or built by contractors who failed to see the need for those design standards. How many times have we read about the poor souls flooded out of their basement apartments? or the people who lost furnaces, etc? Living area and mechanical systems were not allowed below the flood levels under the old codes - later for new regulations! I'm a Staten Islander, and have been working my tail off to help families - and I am FURIOUS with the people who made buckets of money while putting our families at risk... the same people who do not want regulation.

Dec. 02 2012 08:26 AM

“The one outcome that we must all avoid is 'allowing' people to build as was," Oddo said. "If government is complicit in facilitating the status quo, shame on all of us."

THIS WAS A 100 YEAR STORM!That statement rings of 'DONT LET A CRISES GO TO WASTE"...just another opportunity for our very corrupt politicians to
regulate everything in our lives!!

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing!"

Dec. 01 2012 07:39 AM

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