On the hard-hit Rockaway Peninsula, the risk of a major hurricane barreling down on the barrier island was always in the back of residents’ minds. But while Sandy’s destruction was always a nightmare that could happen, once it did, it ushered in a new standard of living.
Many Rockaway residents are prepared to raise their homes or completely rebuild, and city programs, though not without their criticisms, seem to be helping.
“The various programs in place are impressive when they come through,” said John Cori of Friends of Rockaway Beach. “We definitely have issues with the Bloomberg administration, but in hindsight, it was extremely impressive. It gave people a better choice than going into trailers at Floyd Bennett Field.”
Cori said that for many people, the problem remains getting funds from insurance claims to rebuild basements, but otherwise life on the peninsula is slowly returning to normal.
But the need for assistance in Rockaway is still apparent.
Rena Resnick, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, said her organization is serving 2,000 ongoing clients and has taken up 6,000 new clients since the storm, most of whom are in the Rockaways. The council opened a restoration center on the peninsula for four months after the storm so residents could access federal relief agencies and the Red Cross.
On much of the peninsula, Sandy set a new standard for building resilient infrastructure.
In Arverne, L&M Development Partners was due to close on the Ocean Village complex at Beach 59th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard the day of the storm. The firm ended up closing on it two weeks later.
“We didn’t think about the possibility of not closing,” said Rick Gropper, a project manager at L&M. “We thought about what to take from the storm and prepare for the next.”
What that meant for the 1,093-unit complex was moving its electrical infrastructure from the basement to the ground floor — a “heavy undertaking” according to Gropper — as well as installing generators on the roofs of the development’s high-rise buildings.
Post-Sandy construction at Ocean Village is 90 percent completed, Gropper said. Every unit is occupied, including many by Sandy victims who had lost their previous homes.
Broad Channel, which was especially hard hit, has come back to normal, according to resident Don Riepe, president of the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society.
“Many people are raising their homes, I raised my floor,” he said.
Riepe noted that there were a few people who have moved out, but most have stayed.
Dan Mundy Jr., president of the Broad Channel Civic Association, said the vast majority of residents have rebuilt or are in the process of rebuilding, but a number of them — roughly 15 percent — saw their homes completely destroyed and are waiting for funds from the $61 billion federal Sandy aid bill that was promised.
“There isn’t a single person in Broad Channel who has gotten a penny to help out,” he said. “We’ve got some people out here who are out of their house and need money. I don’t understand, where did the money go?”