Residents gather at the shore in Rockaway Beach, New York, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy's landfall.
"Superstorm Sandy" surged over the beaches of New Jersey and New York on the night of October 29, 2012. As the one-year anniversary of the storm approached, news media marked the occasion with a survey of the progress—and the lack of progress—of recovery efforts in the affected coastal communities.
A set of before-and-after photo montages at the Atlantic's In Focus blog shows the dramatic difference a year can make: ("Hurricane Sandy, Before and After, One Year Later") and ("Hurricane Sandy, One Year Later, Part II"). But scenes of ruined buildings and cars still lying where the storm left them are a sad reminder that for some people, recovery will come slowly—or perhaps not at all. The same lesson reverberates through another retrospective photo set on the Boston Globe Big Picture blog ("One year after Superstorm Sandy: A mixed recovery").
In New Jersey, press reports focused on segments of the community still struggling to get back what the storm took away. Resident's of the New Jersey's "other shore"—the shoreline that faces south and west across the Delaware Bay toward Delaware—say they are still in deep trouble, reported the Newark Star-Ledger ("One year after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey's forgotten western shore struggles to rebuild," by Amy Ellis Nutt).
"A year ago this week, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Mid-Atlantic, and while much of the evidence has been razed and removed from gleamingly rebuilt towns all along the eastern shore, along the western shore it's like Sandy never moved on at all," the Star-Ledger reports. ""On the Atlantic coast, there's a $40 million boardwalk, huge beach replenishment, waterways cleaned. Down here, it's a dead zone," Bob Campbell, mayor of Downe Township, told the paper. "We don't qualify for anything."
And even in parts of New Jersey that are at the center of rebuilding efforts, lower-income residents have gotten short shrift, the Star-Ledger reports ("N.J.'s low-income households still reeling from Hurricane Sandy: Study," by Stephen Stirling).
"Low-income ... families were disproportionately impacted by Sandy," said Stephanie Hoopes-Halpin, author of a Rutgers study, "incurring more than half of all residential damage, but receiving less than 30 percent of the recovery assistance."
"Halpin found just 11% of poor households even applied for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which she suggested may have been attributed to a very complicated application process as well as a lack of information distributed on what assistance was actually available to those affected," reports the Star-Ledger. "FEMA held scores of workshops and town halls across the state following the storm, however, so it remains somewhat unclear why so few applied for assistance."
At the same time, second-home owners—many of them middle-class owners who inherited small beach bungalows—are finding it hard to bounce back. The Boston Globe carries this Associated Press report: ("After Sandy, second homes in N.J. are left out," by Katie Zezima). "While billions of dollars in federal relief have helped primary-home owners rebuild after the storm, second-home owners find themselves stuck in limbo: not eligible for enough money to rebuild or even demolish their homes while they remain on the hook for mortgage payments and higher flood insurance for houses they can't even use."
As owners financially overwhelmed by the storm's impact sell out or walk away, the face of the shore is changing. The Wall Street Journal reports that the middle class is being priced out of the shore, replaced by upscale newcomers ("Sandy's Legacy: Higher Home Prices," by Josh Dawsey). "In more-modest communities, Sandy has accelerated a trend that real-estate experts see in many waterfront communities elsewhere in the U.S.: The rising cost of housing, insurance, and taxes has already turned many vacation spots into havens affordable mainly to the more affluent," the Journal reports. "After a storm's damage, many less-wealthy longtime owners find the only financially viable option is to sell. That moves many such properties further up the economic ladder, as buyers … build bigger, more luxurious homes where bungalows once stood."
In New York, the picture is similar. Breezy Point, struck by a one-two punch of flood and fire, is still in rough shape, reports Yahoo News: ("Burned and flooded Breezy Point still trying to rebuild after Sandy," by Holly Bailey. "Most of Breezy Point's homes are densely packed together, linked to the road only by a sidewalk that also connects to the oceanfront," notes Yahoo. "Within those clusters are houses damaged in the storm that have remained largely untouched ever since. Some still have the 'restricted' stickers that were slapped on their front doors by city inspectors in the weeks after the storm. Some are for sale, some are still in limbo as residents wait for insurance money for repairs, and some are just empty—and have been for the past year. No one really knows who is coming back and who is not."
All along the Rockaway Peninsula, life is far from back to normal, reports Agence France-Presse: ("Sandy suffering still acute in the Rockaways"). A year on, the suffering wrought by Hurricane Sandy is still acute on the Rockaways, the narrow peninsula of Long Island once popular with day trippers and tourists. Supermarkets are boarded up, many homes are not repaired, and hundreds of people still rely on church handouts to survive."
One reason for the slow pace could be that most of the Federal aid promised to the victims of Sandy, and authorized by Congress after weeks of political bickering, has yet to be paid out. The New York Daily News has this report: ("Sandy victims see almost none of promised $60 billion in aid a year after storm," by Dan Friedman and Erin Durkin). "As of the end of August, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that just $5.2 billion of the $60 billion aid package had actually been spent," the Daily News reports. "Another $6 billion had been set aside by federal agencies but had not yet reached the intended recipients."