In Staten Island, a Post-Sandy Rumor Mill

Friday, May 03, 2013


New York City's Sandy recovery is in a kind of limbo. Although a thousand people remain displaced, most homeowners affected by the storm have gotten past the emergency phase and are now wondering about the future. But the information they need to decide whether to stay in their homes—new insurance rates based on revised FEMA flood maps, the particulars of the city's buyout program—is at least a month from being released.

So they wait, as rumors circulate.

"Hearsay," said Stephen Drimalas while standing outside his bungalow on Buel Avenue in Ocean Breeze, which has been renovated but not elevated. "That's all it is out there right now."

Drimalas says he's interested in a buyout. Under the city's plan, a developer could tear down acquired houses and replace them with more flood resistant structures. But that makes Drimalas worry that his home, and tight-knit block, could give way to luxury housing.

The city's director of Housing Recovery Operations, Brad Gair, says that fear is misplaced.

"We're not out to take advantage of anybody," he said. "We're not out there to be part of some secret government plot to redevelop neighborhoods in a way that forces out the poor."

Gair spoke by phone as he was leaving a meeting with the Staten Island Borough President. He acknowledged that thousands of homeowners affected by Sandy face complicated decisions.

He acknowledged that rumors can be plentiful when facts are hard to find. So in June, Gair will send 200 housing recovery specialists into storm-damaged areas. Their job will be to answer homeowners' questions and help them with their paperwork.

"We're going to start a very aggressive outreach program that we hope will get to everybody quickly," he said.

So far, the city has tried to get information out through its website and community meetings. But Gair admits that tactic is limited. Almost every homeowner has detailed questions that need to be answered one on one. If the specialists do their jobs right, homeowners in flood zones will start deciding next month about whether to stay or go.


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Comments [1]

rose garden from new jersey

Stop FEMA Now is a group of concerned citizens, who have not only been affected by Hurricane Sandy, but who have been impacted on varying levels by the implications of the new FEMA flood maps. The decision to adopt these maps is premature and requires additional consideration. We want to, quite simply, Stop FEMA Now!

Our goal is to create community awareness as the adoption of these maps will heavily impact many communities across this country. These maps will tear many from their homes, force many to make harsh decisions about their futures with no real place to turn and ultimately change our lives. The financial implications alone are frightening!

We are faced with many unanswered questions and very little direction. Stop FEMA Now intends to provide a fact based argument as to how and why we can rebuild stronger and more resilient with a more “realistic” approach. Together we will prevail!

Stop FEMA Now is New Jersey based but is the “voice of the country”. We welcome everyone from all states to join and share information. Please like us on Facebook

May. 04 2013 09:36 AM

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