For Some Struggling on Staten Island, Buy-Outs Welcome

Some of the yellow demolition machines sit idle in now-vacant lots. Some are busy filling trucks with debris. The nearby homes that aren’t at some stage of being torn down in the Oakwood Beach section of Staten Island may soon meet the same fate. At least that’s what more than 130 of the residents in the area are hoping for.

Members of the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee are pressing city and state officials to help them move out of the flood zone. They got a boost on Monday when Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office confirmed that it was setting aside $400 million to buyout homeowners in areas vulnerable to future storms, such as Oakwood Beach.

“If you could wave a wand—a magic wand—and you said, everything’s back to normal tomorrow, you’d still have close to 133 [home owners] who want to leave because they just can’t put up with it anymore,” said Joseph Tirone, Jr., who leads the buyout committee.

Many of the homes in the neighborhood still have red stickers on their door—they remain uninhabitable. The interior of some of the homes are stripped down to bare studs. Others, like that of Joe Monte, have mold growing up the wall and mud still covering the floors.

Monte says he’s been through dozens of storms and numerous evacuations. But then Sandy sent a 10-foot storm surge through his home. He’s thankful Cuomo is taking steps to buy out homeowners like him.

“This is no lottery ticket,” Monte said. “I’m losing money and I really don’t care, because my wife is alive and my children are alive.”