A Year After Sandy: Rebuilding Continues

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

It has been almost a full calendar year since Superstorm Sandy and many Queens residents are still rebuilding their damaged businesses and homes.

Oct. 29 will mark the storm’s one-year anniversary. Its powerful surge flooded several coastal communities in the City, including Howard Beach, the Rockaways and part of Long Island City in Queens, destroyed thousands of businesses and properties and changed many lives forever.

First responders arrive in Howard Beach to assist in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Some communities are still recovering from the storm almost a year later.  Photo by Ira Cohen

First responders arrive in Howard Beach to assist in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Some communities are still recovering from the storm almost a year later. Photo by Ira Cohen

In the year since the storm, the rebuilding effort has been a mixed bag. Many in the affected areas have been able to get back on their feet, while others are still struggling to put the pieces back together.

Sapienza’s Deli, a Howard Beach eatery known for its pastrami sandwiches, reopened in the neighborhood shortly before Sandy hit. The deli was closed for two years before reopening at its current location on Cross Bay Boulevard, close to the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge.

But for Sapienza’s, as was the case for many businesses in the neighborhood, Sandy forced them to strip down what was a brand new storefront and start over again.

The store’s co-owner, Anthony Calore, said everything that was in the store had to be thrown away because of the damage its equipment took on from the storm’s flood waters.

“Nothing could be salvaged because that water was acid. It wasn’t water,” Calore said. “I don’t care if it didn’t get wet; it was still in the room. It had to go in the garbage.”

He said the deli took on about $40,000 in damage and was closed for one month and two weeks following the storm before reopening once again. Calore also said Howard Beach is not quite the same as it was before the storm because there is not as much foot traffic on Cross Bay Boulevard, which has led to less profits for the small businesses on the thoroughfare.

“It’s not as busy as it was, Sandy definitely did some damage to this neighborhood,” he said.

The story is similar for the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Long Island City.

The hotel was open for six months before Sandy and was closed for two months following the storm to repair damages.

Jeffrey Reich-Hale, director of sales and marketing at the Wyndham Garden, said the hotel was hit with a 14-foot surge of water through the first floor that led to extensive amounts of damage and lost revenue.

“Once we reopened, we started trickling back into business,” Reich-Hale said. “There was a lot of revenue lost, but there is nothing we can do besides put more sandbags.”

Reich-Hale said local hotels were very supportive during the storm because they were liable to relocate about 80 guests. Even though things are inching closer to normalcy in these areas, community leaders and elected officials still believe more needs to be done to quicken the recovery for residents that are still reeling.

Betty Braton, Chairperson for Community Board 10, which represents Howard Beach, said many residents cannot rebuild as quickly as they would like because they do not know when they will receive much-needed repair money from the federal government.

“If there is one word to describe the situation, its ‘uncertainty,’” she said.

The changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps serves as another potential delay in rebuilding, Braton said, because building requirements for their property might be affected depending on what changes are made to that map.

Staff Writer Trisha Sakhuja contributed to the reporting.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.