STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches, battered homeowners in Oakwood Beach have begun receiving buyout letters from the state — and they say the offers are “right on the money.”
The Advance has learned the average buy-out offer is in the $400,000 range.
Despite assurances from the Cuomo administration early on that the offers would be based on the pre-Sandy value of the houses, rumors were rife that residents would only wind up receiving half of what their homes were worth before the Oct. 29-30, 2012 superstorm hit, destroying everything in its path in Staten Island’s beach communities.
But the offers “have been more than fair,” said Joe Tirone, who formed the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee, the pilot program for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s return-to-Mother Nature mantra.
Tirone, a real-estate agent who owns a Fox Beach Avenue house that he rented out, was among the first to get a written offer last week. He expects to close on the deal by Nov. 1.
Although he declined to provide particulars about the offer the state made him, Tirone said it was “absolutely pre-storm market value.”
While the Cuomo administration did not respond to requests for comment, Tirone said that of the 185 homeowners from the Fox Beach community who signed up to participate, 30 to 60 have received letters so far from the Recreate New York Smart Home Buyout Program.
It’s administered by the state and funded by the federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recover Program.
“In general,” Tirone said, “the appraisals given to the community were very fair … They were right on the money.”
He said the “few” homeowners who were not pleased with the offers they received are free to pay for their own appraisal and negotiate an appeal with the state.
Tirone also described three homeowners as “holdouts,” who do not want to participate in the buyouts, including one each on Fox Beach Avenue, Fox Lane and Kissam Avenue.
But that could change, he said, once the tear-downs begin.
While no date certain has been set for that, Tirone noted that “the purpose of this is to create a barrier for inland portions of Staten Island” to repel future storm surges.
Once the buyout offer is received, said Tirone, homeowners must sign on the dotted line, including acknowledgment that the program is voluntary — and that they have the ability to back out right up until the last minute.
“They have made it as least-stressful as possible,” said Tirone.
Transfer taxes and closing costs are included, he added, “making it more than fair.”
While homeowners may choose to hire their own attorney, Tirone said he is not, happy to have the state handle the legal legwork along with his case manager at Pro Source Technology, Bloomfield, which the state hired to handle the process.
Samantha Langello, another Fox Beach Avenue homeowner, said the buy-out offer she received from the state “surpassed my expectations.”
She said she and her husband, Frank, were concerned about facing foreclosure and having their credit rating destroyed.
“It (the buy-out) saved us from that,” said Mrs. Langello, who is currently living with her husband and two young children in an Emerson Hill rental. “This has shed a light at the end of the tunnel. We are ecstatic, elated.”
Her brother-in-law, Christopher Bowden, who lived a few houses away on Fox Beach Avenue, called the buy-out offer he received “very fair; they gave us market price.”
“Days after the storm, everybody mobilized,” said Bowden, who relocated his family to Great Kills. “Everybody was on the same page. And they (the state) actually took us seriously.”
Meanwhile, “invitations” to apply for buyouts have been received by 200-plus homeowners elsewhere in Oakwood, said Tirone.