Nine months after a devastating fire tore through the neighborhood of Breezy Point during Hurricane Sandy, homeowners are struggling to rebuild. The neighborhood is one of the most Irish in America.
The fire, which began when rising water flooded one home's electrical system, swept through the neighborhood, destroying nearly 130 homes.
Of the nearly 3,000 homes in Breezy Point, about 350 were damaged from flood or fire during the hurricane. Many of the flooded homes began repairs several months ago, but of the homes wrecked by the fire, only one is currently under construction.
‘‘That fire zone is the one scar out of all of this that won’t go away,’’ said Kieran Burke, a firefighter who lost his home in the fire. ‘‘These aren’t just beach homes. These are people’s lives. This is a way of life.’’
According to the Boston Globe, the recovery effort of the New York City neighborhood is being hampered by "government inefficiency, cumbersome permit laws, and general confusion."
While some homeowners have filed plans to rebuild, they haven't been given the approval by the city or by the Breezy Point Cooperative, which runs the neighborhood. Others are struggling with insurance companies, while others waited for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to finalize its updated flood maps, which, according to the Globe, will put the neighborhood in a more stringent flood zone with higher elevation requirements.
‘‘We’re paying a mortgage, we’re paying real estate tax, we’re paying insurance, we’re paying everything,’’ Burke told the Boston Globe. ‘‘So basically we’re living a dual life. We have two homes, and we never prepared for that.’’
Burke, who has had to rent a house in Yonkers with his wife and two young sons, is struggling to pay for a rental home as well as for the mortgage of their Breezy Point home that burnt to ashes.
‘I’m 41 years old and we’re dipping into retirement funds. A lot of people are actually going broke over this."
And since many of the homes were constructed on unmapped streets, the owners have to apply for a special building permit from the state.
Said A.J. Smith, a spokesman for the Breezy Point Cooperative: ‘‘It’s good for morale to see a house going up. But we really need the buildings department to act on some of these plans.’’