Six months after Hurricane Sandy slammed the Irish enclave of Breezy Point in New York, 2,400 out of 2,800 families have not returned to their homes.
A shocking investigative report by columnist Denis Hamill in the New York Daily News reveals that many residents feel abandoned by Governor Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council President Christine Quinn who all promised massive state and federal help.
In addition, new insurance regulations and battles with insurance companies are causing massive delays.
Resident Michael Sullivan said much of Breezy has become a ghost town in the aftermath of the massive storm and flash fire that devastated the enclave with the highest percentage of Irish Americans in the U.S.
Michael is one of six members of the Sullivan clan who have been displaced from their home
He just moved back full time to the neighborhood on the tip of Queens but was almost cut off by power and water authorities who thought no one lived on his block anymore.
‘They were gonna shut off all power and water on my block for a week to take down the other homes. I had to stop them because this is such a ghost town now that nobody knew we were even back.’
Hundreds of homes are still targeted for demolition.
“Seven homes on my block are either gone or red-tagged for demolition,” says Sullivan, 52
One of his relatives, 9/11 survivor Thomas Sullivan, has lost his home and is having huge difficulty getting permission to rebuild.
“Thomas is living with his wife’s family in Long Island until they can rebuild,” says Michael. “But insurance and the new building codes delay everything. It’s like Breezy is frozen in time.“
Ironically those whose houses burned down on that fateful night will fare much better than those who were flooded because of insurance issues.
“Don’t let anyone bull---t you or sugarcoat what’s going on in Breezy,” John Nies, 55, told The Daily News. “I was here through Sandy as a member of the Rockaway Point Fire Department, and I never experienced anything like that insane night in my life. It was a game-changer.”
Nies says those who were burned out will be much better off. ‘They had fire insurance and will get paid and will rebuild. But the ones whose homes were flooded are still haggling with insurance companies.’
“It’s been an emotional nightmare. Friends, neighbors, good decent people just ruined. Many never coming back. There wasn’t a single home untouched by Sandy that I know of in Breezy.
"And (Gov.) Cuomo, (City Council Speaker Christine) Quinn and (Mayor) Bloomberg all came down and said everything would be expedited. Now the cameras are gone. It’s six months later. And next to nothing has been done. Most of the people from Breezy are living in Marine Park, Bay Ridge, Long Island. It’s eerie here, like a ghost town, especially at night with 2,400 families gone. I don’t see the politicians anymore...”
“The problem is that the Department of Buildings now requires all new building rise 9 feet above the ground,” Nies, told the Daily News .
“You must build on 18-inch pilings so water can rush under your house. And after that insane storm, it’s not unreasonable. But the cost is prohibitive. We’ll have to build ramps for the elderly to get to their front door 9 feet up from the ground. The insurance will be crazy. The bureaucracy to get permits is stalled. No one knows if existing homes will be grandfathered in yet. If so, can they be insured? Nothing’s getting done. I complained to a Building Department inspector last week, and he said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but there are four other boroughs.’ ”
“People are hurting from Sandy all over in Breezy, in Rockaway, in Staten Island. And so that’s why you have to ask: Where’s Quinn, Cuomo and Bloomberg six months later? I think everyone has forgotten and moved on.”
“But we’re still here,” says Michael Sullivan, “trying to rebuild our lives in Breezy Point.”