6 Months After Sandy, Rebuilding but Not Necessarily Better

Monday, April 29, 2013

stanchions Sandy surge rebuilding What's left of the Long Beach boardwalk (Matthew Schuerman/WNYC)

The city of Long Beach broke ground this weekend on its new boardwalk: 2.2 miles long, it will feature special braces that will tie the planks to the supports and a concrete wall that will hang down from in front of the boardwalk like a skirt, to break the waves the next time the Atlantic rises up against it.

Eventually, Long Beach plans to have the Army Corps build a $150 million dollar dune running the length of the beach, between the boardwalk and the ocean. It won’t be high enough to block anyone’s view, but will be about as high as Sandy’s surge was. That’s quite a reversal—seven years ago, the Long Beach City Council had rejected the dune for various reasons.

“I think people now see the reality of the threats that we face,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said. “We don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on why past folks failed to protect the city. We just are moving forward.”

But Long Beach is one of the few places one can see in the region where, six months after Sandy, projects are underway not just to rebuild, but to rebuild better, as elected officials had promised after the storm devastated the coast.

Other places are coming back in a much more haphazard way. Private property owners especially, say they cannot afford the cost of building back better, or they cannot afford to wait for federal grants, or they are not aware that there will be any money available for them.

Long Beach expects the dune will be paid for entirely by money from the federal Sandy aid. Much of the cost of the boardwalk’s construction is also expected to be covered by that money, though it may require a local contribution, according to spokesman Gordon Tepper.

All in all, about 16 percent of the $48 billion federal Sandy aid bill has been approved so far for particular projects. That includes money that’s been targeted to specific projects but not distributed to the end user: the actual amount disbursed is much smaller. In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that $7.1 billion has been paid out to flood insurance policy holders.

The biggest chunks of money to have gone out so far were for storm response: $403 million to clean up debris, or $705 million for emergency measures during or immediately after the storm

On Friday, the federal government approved New York State’s application for $1.7 billion in community development block grants. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan calls for $838 million for housing, a portion of which will be used to pay for homeowners to elevate their homes above the expected flood level. New York City and New Jersey are also applying to use some of their block grant allocation this way. These funds, once they get out the door, are likely to provide the most significant help in making individual properties more resilient against future flooding.

But New York City’s plan for this money states that the block grants “are far from adequate to support mitigation” of most homes, and that as a result it will give priority to homes that were "substantially" damaged—a standard that is met by just about 15 percent of the roughly 17,000 one- and two-family homes impacted by Sandy.

As property owners wait for more details about federal aid, some are patching together what they have and improvising a resiliency plan.

Jeremy’s Ale House is located right on a canal in Freeport, Long Island, about six miles east of Long Beach, It was flooded, but re-opened quickly with a few quick repairs. General Manager Justin Kargman said the owners of the bar and grill are not planning to elevate or make any long-term changes. They fear doing so would force them to raise their prices and scare off the neighborhood clientele they have developed.

Instead, he said, the plan is that next time a hurricane barrels up the coast, employees will empty out the entire place, even more so than they did before Sandy.

“Instead of taking out some of our equipment out, we would take all of our equipment out. Absolutely everything. Fridge, fryers, grills, steam tables,” he said. “Our liquor, we left on the shelves and we lost our bottom row of liquor. Next time, all of our liquor will be out of here.”


Karen Frillmann


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Comments [6]

John Weber from NJ

Matthew, this story follows the main media narrative about beach replenishment that is everywhere these days, but unfortunately it is false. One on the main reasons the City of Long Beach rejected he beachfill in 2006 was that it does not address bayside flooding. Depending who you talk to, 75% to 90% of the homes in Long Beach that flooded, flooded from the bayside. That threat remains. One of the victories from 2006 was getting Congress to realize this and order the Army Corps to study the problem. But I met with Army Corps officials last month and asked them about it, they said Congress never funded the $100K study. So now we are going to spend $100 million on a beachfill that will still leave Long Beach vulnerable and no one is talking about it. All for want of $100K. This is the type of thing I expect WNYC to dig into.

Apr. 29 2013 04:39 PM

Add Broad Channel to Breezy Point to the list of communities where I don't want a penny of my tax dollar going to. That's the community who held a halloween parade that featured a humorous float that re-enacted the torture of James Bird. James Bird was the follow in Texas who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death because he was black. Broad Channel's demise would improve NYC.

Apr. 29 2013 04:27 PM
Marianne from Sea Bright, NJ

My house is located in Sea Bright, NJ and was flooded by Hurricane Sandy. I receive an initial settlement offer of $50,000 in January. Before I signed off on the settlement offer (which I had no intention to do), I received the check. I knew that this was less than 1/2 of the actual cost to be incurred to restore the house to pre-Sandy state. After a few email messages to the Adjuster stating my dissatisfaction with the settlement offer and finally realizing that no action was going to be taken on the Adjuster's part to upwardly adjust the settlement amount, I did my own research to determine average fees for the labor involved in performing the various jobs that needed to be done. I also needed to pull old receipts of construction material and appliances to prove to the adjuster that I paid more than what was listed as original costs of these items. I then mapped my rates to the detailed proof of loss line items and totaled the new figures. My final total figure was about $120,000. I forwarded it to the adjuster and one month later received an adjusted Proof of Loss and settlement offer which amounted to $103,000. Although this amount was still lower than my estimated proof of loss total, I accepted the offer.

Apr. 29 2013 04:20 PM
rudeboynyc from Williamsburg

Breezy Point is a private, gated community where the public is firmly locked out from any access. Why should there any public money be used for rebuilding this private, gated community?

Apr. 29 2013 10:39 AM

never forget

Apr. 29 2013 10:35 AM
Karen from nyc

Post-Sandy: South Street Seaport - Historic Front Street area is forgotten. Most people don't know the area still looks like a war zone. Businesses that have reopened are struggling from low foot traffic. Residents are getting weary of waiting to be able to return, many have decided not to come back - we're out until at least the end of June

Apr. 29 2013 10:19 AM

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