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Those affected by 2012 storm still await help

Months after super storm Sandy, displaced families are tired of politicians' promises help - they just want to go home.
Last modified: 30 Apr 2013 02:13
Workers work to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy in Bay Head, New Jersey, November 1, 2012. [Reuters]

Six months after super storm Sandy lashed the northeastern coast of the United States, Breezy Point, New York still looks like a ghost town. Construction crews dot the neighbourhood during the day but, come nightfall, all goes quiet.

"It is like a house graveyard," Maura Distablie told me.

She returned to her two-bedroom bungalow last month after five months of sleeping on friends' couches. The houses around her are mostly empty, though, still too damaged to live in. Some lots contain nothing more than the foundations of the homes that once stood there.

"I feel like we’ve made so little progress towards getting families back home," she added.

"I want my neighbours back."

Her brother and sister are among those who lost everything and have yet to rebuild.  Of the 2800 homes in Breezy Point, a peninsula in lower New York Bay, only 400 are occupied.

John Nies, who lives and works in the neighborhood as a contractor, says a lot of families are still haggling with their insurance companies.

Many residents are also waiting for new federal and local building regulations to be established for flood zones like Breezy Point.  Residents who are rebuilding from the ground up will have to put their homes on stilts in order to qualify for flood insurance – but exactly how high they have to go has yet to be established. And the requirements for people like Maura, whose home was not completely destroyed, are also unknown.

"We just need help, somebody's got to say, bypass all the regulations, let's just start building. Let's get people home."

Altogether, nearly 40,000 families are still displaced in New York and New Jersey thanks to Sandy. Many are living with family or friends. In New York City, 250 families continue to live in hotels, paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have both reiterated their commitment to helping rebuild.

But families here have heard the promises before.