Meridian Star

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October 28, 2013

After Sandy, only a lucky few getting buyouts

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

Most homeowners in Oakwood Beach have already applied and are proceeding toward the state's offer to purchase. The first house was demolished last week, and the state has already bought about a dozen homes. New Jersey officials purchased their first two homes last week.

Getting a buyout is the equivalent of winning the lottery for homeowners who lost everything during the storm, although not all residents want to be bought out. On New York City's Rockaway peninsula, for example, homeowners are determined to stay put and rebuild.

Much of the clamor for buyouts is coming from Staten Island, where waves slammed against third-floor windows and 23 people drowned, most of them trapped inside their own homes.

Although Oakwood Beach's buyout push has been a success, the future is far less certain for hundreds of people who have signed petitions demanding the same deal in nearly every other devastated shorefront community on Staten Island: New Dorp Beach, Midland Beach, Ocean Breeze and Tottenville, among others.

Right now, those areas are only eligible for a city program that buys individual properties for redevelopment — a program that so far has purchased only one home. But because many have yet to receive a dime from the city's Sandy aid programs, they're skeptical.

In Ocean Breeze, a neighborhood that remains mostly deserted since the storm, about half of the 120 homeowners have signed a petition requesting a buyout from the governor's office.

"We're below sea level," said Frank Moszczynski, who lives on a creekfront block where one house floated across the street and several others were demolished. "We're in a bowl that was created at the end of the ice age."

State officials say they chose to buy out Oakwood Beach after analyzing historical flooding data and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's scientific flood maps. The other crucial factor was quick mobilization: residents began marshaling resources for a buyout the day after Sandy hit.

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