Some of the borough’s most palatial and desired homes are in one of it’s most remote communities.
Belle Harbor and Neponsit, the two neighborhoods that sit in the western part of the Rockaway Peninsula just before Riis Park, are known for their large homes and suburban shorefront feel. It has always been a popular place to live, but then came Hurricane Sandy.
However, Robin Shapiro, who has been a realtor in the Rockaways for a decade, said there is still a desire to live in the quaint seaside community.
The storm surge flooded the neighborhood and every home in it, cutting it off from the rest of the city and leaving residents without electricity and running water for weeks. On one block, Beach 130 Street, about a dozen homes burned down in a raging fire and residents were forced to flee their homes in dramatic escapes that made national news. Today, vacant concrete slabs mark where those houses once stood.
Shapiro, who runs Robin Shapiro Realty, which sells homes in much of the western part of the Rockaway Peninsula, experienced the hurricane’s brutal effects firsthand. Her home in Neponsit, which is located just a few hundred feet from the beach, was damaged in Sandy and she was without power for nearly a month.
Shapiro admitted, at first, the real estate market in the Rockaways was slow and said it was true that values have fallen in the community since the storm. But that has not stopped buyers, at least in the past couple of months. Since the beginning of the year, she has closed, or is in contract to close, on a dozen homes.
“I figured it would be a long time before we recovered like this,” Shapiro said. “I was really surprised.”
She noted that some of the houses were bought with cash, which usually means they were purchased at a lower value. Many of the homes were sold still without heat, hot water or even electricity. A couple of homes in Neponsit that did have heat and electricity, were not seriously damaged in the storm, or were repaired have sold for over $1 million.
Shapiro believes the aspects of the Rockaways, especially Belle Harbor and Neponsit, that attracted people before the storm are still bringing people in now.
“People who probably were already thinking about moving here are still thinking about it,” she said. “They are familiar with the neighborhood. They see that we’re still here and still want to live here.”
Shapiro said many of the homes for sale are owned by older residents who raised families in the Rockaways but now live alone in big houses. Since Sandy, many of them have decided to leave and move closer to their children elsewhere in Queens or in other states.
Those who are coming are mainly young couples or families, typically from southern Brooklyn, who came to the neighborhood in the past to use the beach, or know people who lived there.
Shapiro hopes the real estate recovery will hold and it will show the resilience of the community post-Sandy.
“We survived,” she said.