Staten Island area hit by Sandy chosen for buyouts BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 141 homeowners in storm-ravaged Oakwood Beach will participate in a state program, in which the state will buy their homes at pre-storm values.

(AP) — A Staten Island neighborhood where three people died during Superstorm Sandy will be the first to get state-sponsored home buyouts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined the planned program during a visit to the borough on Monday.

In remarks made as part of a statewide tour following up on his State of the State address, Mr. Cuomo discussed efforts to recover from the devastating late October storm, including plans to rebuild with mitigation measures in place to avoid future damage.

“Let’s also recognize that there are some places that Mother Nature owns,” Mr. Cuomo told the audience at the College of Staten Island. “She may only come to visit every two years or three years or four years. But when she comes to visit, she reclaims the site.

“I want to be there for people and communities who want to say, ‘I’m going to give this parcel back to Mother Nature.'”

Oakwood Beach, a low-lying oceanfront neighborhood, is one of those areas, the governor said.

“It’s been damaged time and time again,” he said. “It is in a situation that is very vulnerable.”

The neighborhood was swamped with about 12 feet of water during the Oct. 29 storm, which did damage in at least 10 states but hit New York and New Jersey the hardest. Several homes were lifted off their foundations and dumped, in pieces, into the marshland that surrounds the streets. Others were inundated where they stood, including those of Leonard Montalto and John Filipowicz Sr. and his 20-year-old son, John Filipowicz Jr.

The three were among the 23 people killed on Staten Island, which accounted for more than half the 43 deaths in New York City attributed to the storm.

The tightly packed streets of Oakwood Beach were first populated in the 1930s with wooden beach bungalows. Most of those structures were later converted to year-round homes, while some were replaced with larger dwellings.

But the community has repeatedly flooded, especially since 1992, when a nor’easter washed away a berm that had served to hold back the waves. Residents fought for years to have the berm rebuilt and other flood mitigation efforts put in place. Some measures, like a bulkhead that burned in a brush fire, were damaged or destroyed before Sandy. Others were simply overwhelmed by the amount of water pushed ashore by the giant storm, which hit at high tide during a full moon.

Today, the neighborhood remains depopulated, with just a handful of residents back in their houses.

The Democratic governor said 141 homeowners from the area have asked the state for buyouts. A map provided by the governor’s office outlines a buyout area that encompasses about 200 homes.

The area contains the most concentrated group of homeowners in the state seeking buyouts.

The program, which the governor said he would like to make available to other communities, calls for the state to pay 100% of the pre-storm value for the homes. Residents who move elsewhere on Staten Island will be eligible for an additional 5% bonus. A 10% bonus would be made available for homeowners who are vacating property in designated highly vulnerable flood areas.

The state would continue to own the properties, which would be developed for recreational use, Mr. Cuomo said.

Joseph Tirone, who leads a neighborhood committee seeking the buyouts, was among five Oakwood Beach homeowners who met with Mr. Cuomo and his aides. He said the governor’s intention is to have everyone bought out by the end of the year.

For many from the neighborhood, the buyout will be a mixed blessing.

“It will be bittersweet when it comes to fruition,” said Mr. Montalto’s 55-year-old sister, Patty Snyder, who moved to Oakwood Beach as an 8-year-old. “None of us were planning on leaving the area.”

Though her brother died, her daughter, grandchildren and other family members escaped.

“We’re always going to be in harm’s way,” Ms. Snyder said. “It’s more than likely the only solution for that area.”



Gov. Andrew Cuomo expands Staten Island Sandy buyout zone in Oakwood Beach

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The Cuomo administration has enhanced the home buyout zone in a portion of Oakwood Beach ravaged by superstorm Sandy.

About 120 homes on the periphery of Fox Beach were added by the state, bringing to 300 the number of homes eligible for a buyout, with a potential expansion to 510 homes.

The area, which borders city, state and federally-owned land, includes Riga Street, Merkel Place and Delwit Avenue, which were initially left out of the enhanced buyout area outlined by the state.

The homes are now eligible for a pre-storm value buyout, along with a 10 percent incentive if the homeowners remain residents of Staten Island.

“The damage caused by superstorm Sandy was nothing short of devastating, and no one knows that more than the homeowners whose lives were turned upside-down,” said Matthew Wing, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The state’s buyout program is an important opportunity for those impacted New Yorkers to truly have a fresh start, and expanding the coverage zone to include these additional residents was the right thing to do as we continue to build back smarter and stronger than before.”

Joe Tirone of the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee had words of praise: “I think it’s great. That area is perfect for what the governor has identified as criteria to be considered. It is surrounded by the Blue Belt. It acts as a buffer for the inland portion going toward Hylan Boulevard. All of these homes were substantially damaged.”

In a joint letter to Cuomo in May, state Sens. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) and Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) asked him to consider the expansion.

They noted the area is 50 feet from the enhanced Oakwood Beach buyout zone the governor highlighted during a visit to Staten Island announcing the program. They said Riga Street and Delwit Avenue are south of Mill Road and bounded by an estuary of salt tidal marsh bordering Fox Beach Lane and Kissam Avenue.

They said that while some residents moved back home, they still want to be bought out because they are “consistently inundated by flooding.”

Ms. Savino called the enhancement “wonderful news,” but added: “The fight continues to have sections of South Beach, like Sunnymeade Village, sections of Great Kills Beach, Midland Beach, Ocean Breeze and New Dorp Beach included in new or expanded enhanced zones.”


Ocean Breeze Houses Devastated By Sandy To Be Bought By New York State

NEW YORK (AP) — Residents of a flood-prone area battered by Superstorm Sandy are getting a financial lifeline, with state officials announcing a plan to buy all 129 homes in a neighborhood sandwiched between a tidal marsh and the Atlantic Ocean.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced the state was extending its Sandy buyout program to homeowners in Staten Island’s Ocean Breeze section, a former beach colony.

The community, like others on Staten Island’s southeast coast, has flooded repeatedly since people started building small bungalows there in the early days of the automobile age, and the superstorm, spawned when Hurricane Sandy merged with two other weather systems, appears to have finally persuaded them to give the land back to the ocean.

Two residents drowned when the storm struck in October 2012. Rushing floodwaters knocked down 20 houses. Most of the other houses were badly damaged. Some residents have made repairs, but many houses remain boarded up.

Under a program already at work in a neighboring area, Oak Beach, residents will be offered a little above the pre-storm value of their homes to give them to the state. Participation is voluntary, but Frank Moszczynski, an Ocean Breeze resident for 43 years and president of the local civic association, said 117 people have indicated they intend to say yes to the state’s offer.

“It’s not nice to see your neighborhood go like that,” he said, adding that few people were interested in staying to rebuild. “We never want to have to do a memorial to any of our neighbors ever again.”

Cuomo said the storm showed the neighborhood should be returned to nature.

“If a community decides enough is enough, and they want to move, we want to help,” he said.

A case can be made that people never should’ve been allowed to build homes in the area. Storms have repeatedly destroyed homes there. A New York Times article from 1918 described 100 small bungalows being washed away during a storm. There was more flooding and destruction in 1920 and 1922. A 1927 storm brought floodwaters nearly a mile inland.

“Hundreds marooned in Staten Island homes,” read a Times headline after a catastrophic 1932 flood.

Hundreds of people left the area when wind blew down cottages and waves took others in 1953.

The city’s master planner Robert Moses tried to do something about the flooding in 1955 by building up Staten Island’s South Beach with 2 million cubic yards of fill. But by 1977, residents were again suffering after days of heavy rain left waist-deep water in their living rooms.

The state launched its home buyout program in a handful of flood-prone areas in April. It has extended offers to 613 homeowners in Suffolk County, on Long Island, and 312 homeowners in Staten Island’s Oakwood Beach neighborhood.

Joe Herrnking, a 15-year resident of Ocean Breeze who lived in his car for three months after Sandy destroyed his house, called the buyout announcement a “step toward closure.”

“It was time,” he said, “for the neighborhood to go back to nature.”


Next Areas Proposed For State Buyout Program

These are the next 4 proposed areas to receive a buyout from the State, as submitted by their respective community leaders, and assisted by Joseph Tirone Jr.  These areas all have petitioned the State as a result of a history of serious flooding and were all hit particularly hard by Sandy.  Each community has presented their case in an organized fashion, with community members united in their cause for a State buyout.  The properties in each neighborhood are contiguous, and returning them to nature would create a natural barrier from future storm surges, as required by the Governor’s enhanced buyout program:


Governor Cuomo Announces Staten Island Buyouts