In an ordinary year, the coldest winter months are considered the best time to score the hottest summer rentals on Long Island's sandy shores. But there's nothing ordinary about this rental season: The ruthless assault of superstorm Sandy and the subsequent nor'easter in the fall devastated some of Long Island's most popular summer destinations, destroying private and public property and washing away giant swaths of the main attraction -- the beaches.
Emergency steps to restore the beaches and dunes will be key for the approaching summer season, as well as for the long-term protection of coastal communities.
The passage of the $50.5 billion Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, a federal aid package for Sandy relief, has brought some measure of hope to these communities. The package includes provisions for flood control, coastal emergencies and long-term coastal hazard reduction projects.
As officials in Long Island's seaside locales are busy making cases for their communities' fair share of the funding, home and business owners continue the long, slow battle for payouts from government agencies and insurance carriers for needed repairs.
Newsday traditionally previews the Hamptons summer rental market at this time each year. In light of the ongoing turmoil caused by the storms, this year's coverage has been expanded to include the barrier island communities of Fire Island and Long Beach.
The customary Presidents Day start of the Hamptons summer rental season has been creeping earlier and earlier in recent years, with some renters starting their search as early as October. Despite a weeks-long gap in activity after Sandy, early-bird seasonal renters still turned out by Thanksgiving, says Judi Desiderio of Town & Country Real Estate. "A lot of deals in November closed by the year's end. We have done quite a few leases."
"Prices are holding strong," says Faye Weisberg of Saunders & Associates. "Remember, we have people that rented last year that rent the same house again. . . . By December, we started doing re-dos. That takes away a lot of the rentals" -- about 30 percent, she estimates -- "and we have a lot of new people coming into the market."
Jonathan Miller, a Manhattan appraiser who tracks Long Island real estate sales, has informally kept tabs on the rental scene. He says Weisberg's experience "is consistent with what we are seeing anecdotally -- the demand remains similar to last year, but some of the supply was reduced or offline, keeping the market firm."
Homes, businesses and public property in the Hamptons suffered varying degrees of water and wind damage as the surge spilled over the shores and into the streets. Hundreds of downed trees were reported.
Overall, the region did not fare as badly as feared. However, erosion and dune loss resulting from the storm and the subsequent nor'easter have left some East End coastlines degraded and vulnerable. The surge overwashed portions of Dune Road, depositing 2 to 6 feet of sand from the former dunes into the part of the road that runs from Southampton to Quogue and leaving few to no dunes along the Shinnecock Inlet.