Mixed recovery

Two years after Hurricane Sandy roared into Queens and gouged out our beachfront neighborhoods, the rebuilding is finally gaining some momentum.

The superstorm took its most devastating swipe at the Rockaways, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Jamaica Bay on the other. Breezy Point, the narrow spit of land that was home to 2,800 residents, lost 350 houses to fires and unforgiving waves whipped by wind from three sides.

But today, more than 270 homes have been rebuilt or are on their way to becoming habitable again.

Progress was excruciatingly slow in the first year after the superstorm, when the Bloomberg administration put in safeguards to avoid the bureaucratic nightmare that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005, only to unwittingly snarl the process in New York City.

But since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in January, the recovery pace has quickened under the city’s controversial Build It Back program. Reimbursement checks are trickling in to homeowners who footed the bill for their own renovations, but thousands more are awaiting relief.

He has promised repair work will begin on 1,000 more houses before year’s end and that 1,500 reimbursement checks will be distributed.

The numbers don’t tell the story of the human toll that Sandy took on Queens residents, however.

Some homeowners whose houses were destroyed are still bunking with friends and relatives, while others were forced to delay work on their homes until FEMA issued flood maps to determine how they must rebuild. And there are owners who do not qualify for any government help.

In Broad Channel, the gateway to the Rockaways that was nearly flattened by Sandy, many of the businesses and homes have come back, however. Some of the houses have been rebuilt on stilts to protect them from damaging surges. And battered Howard Beach is now a flood zone.

Despite the odds, Rockaway residents are returning to the beach communities where they have lived for years, buoyed by stubborn hope and an indomitable spirit.


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