An enlarged copy of an insurance check is posted on the garage of a boarded-up house in Tottenville, Staten Island. A sign on the second floor said "THANK YOU ALLSTATE HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE. APPROVED FOR $165.35 IN DAMAGES. We are in 'Good Hands'!!" Credit: Emily Johnson
The Year of Sandy
One year ago, when the Atlantic Ocean receded to its proper place, the devastation it had wrought was all too apparent in the morning light. Help poured in from out of state, from other parts of the city, from neighbors.
But relief efforts of that scale never last, and winter wore on. For people from Coney Island to Staten Island to the Rockaways, Sandy didn't fade away when the next disaster hit.
It was a long year.
The crunch of shovels digging into mulch fills the air as a couple dozen volunteers work on beautifying a little corner of Tottenville, Staten Island.
But when Anthony Molkay looks around, he doesn't just see a quiet cul-de-sac a stone's throw from the beach. He remembers.
"It was hell," says the 21-year-old College of Staten Island student, looking up the street as if seeing the sand that stretched a block and a half inland, past smashed windows and mountains of ruined belongings that residents had dredged up from their basements.
Unlike Brooklyn and Queens, by and large, Staten Island is a borough of homeowners rather than renters. It raised the stakes for people trying to recover — which also turned them into fierce advocates for themselves and their neighbors. And they were vocal when they felt they were not getting their fair share.
Just a few blocks from the volunteers is a house with most of its first floor still boarded up after the floodwaters raged through. A banner emblazoned across the second floor says ""THANK YOU ALLSTATE HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE. APPROVED FOR $165.35 IN DAMAGES. We are in 'Good Hands'!!" A blown-up copy of the check is displayed on the garage door, listing hail and wind damage as the reason for the reimbursement.
Very few people had flood insurance, meaning some have turned to buyouts in flood-prone areas like Oakwood Beach. The first such house was demolished only last week.
"There's still a lot of houses waiting for the funding and the loans," Molkay says. "One thing I've noticed is that when there's a national tragedy, people forget about it as soon as there's another national tragedy."