STATEN ISLAND, NY — A plan for storm-weary Staten Islanders, whose homes have been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, to sell their residences to the government is definitely a go, according to local and community representatives.
“The buyout is happening,” said Michael Arvanites, deputy chief of staff for state Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), to a crowd of 200 people Wednesday night inside the St. Charles School, Oakwood.
“Of course the $64,000 question, or, if you own a half million dollar house, the $500,000 question is when?” Arvanites quipped.
He couldn’t say that for sure, but noted “it’s going to be very soon.” Arvanites said the money is likely to be included in the state’s latest fiscal budget due on April l.
Recently, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed spending up to $400 million to purchase homes damaged by Sandy. The goal: Assist suffering homeowners and turn portions of the coast line into either natural barriers or public parklands.
Joseph Tirone Jr., head of the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee, said the buyout plan aims to purchase homes at pre-market sale prices with the federal government paying 75 percent and the state 25 percent.
The committee currently includes 165 homeowners, with 133 looking to accept the buyout, said Tina Downer, who is also with the committee.
Tirone hopes once the plan is announced buyout letters would follow and homes bought out by the end of the year. “But we won’t know until it gets announced,” he said.
He said that once homeowners/businessowners have the buyout letter that letter will be as if the they already have the collateral to move forward. “It tells your lender you sold your home to a bona fide cash buyer.”
But key to making sure future processes go smoothly, he added, is for home and businessowners to keep their credit scores in good standing. He added their are numerous resources out there as well as assistance from lenders and elected officials that help people who are having problems with mortgage or other payments.
Tirone encouraged other communities to organize as well to take advantage of the resources available.
News of a buyout plan was cheered by Joseph Bello, 30, who lived in Oakwood Beach and has been paying both his mortgage and rental costs. He said dealing with both his mortgage lender and flood insurer has been “an absolute nightmare.”
Sheila and Dominic Traina are also looking forward to a buyout. “We can’t afford to live on Staten Island anymore,” said Mrs. Traina, who had plans to follow her husband into retirement. “Living off of Social Security is not an option now.”