Long recovery for NYC areas hit hard by Sandy
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Recovering from superstorm Sandy's wrath six months ago has come with successes offset by frustrations for the hardest hit areas of New York City.
Hundreds of homes are gone. Businesses remain boarded up. Thousands of residents still wait for federal aid or insurance payments.
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The Oct. 29 storm ravaged the South Street Seaport building that houses Marco Pasanella's home and wine shop.
"There's . . . a lot to do, but we've got to be positive," Pasanella, 50, said.
Sandy ravaged Midland Beach, Tottenville and South Beach. Homes and businesses far from the coast were damaged by wind, debris and flooding. Many buildings had to be torn down.
And the recovery has been uneven, said state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island).
"If you look at some of the communities, they are not ones of high wealth. They're struggling. Some people here are two to three paychecks from financial disaster," she said.
The biggest struggle many homeowners have is deciding whether to rebuild or sell and move, Savino said.
Yet as they wait for federal aid and other assistance, residents continue to work together and help each other, and support the borough's construction-related businesses.
"I think if there is any bright spot in the storm, it's created a boom in the economy for the building trades," Savino said.
The former tourist attraction a few blocks from Wall Street remains largely empty.
Parts of the neighborhood still lack power and data services, said Catherine McVey-Hughes, chairwoman of Manhattan's Community Board 1, which covers most of the downtown area, prompting a push in efforts to stormproof the area.
"We have to make sure that if a power plant goes out at 34th Street, power shouldn't go out in lower Manhattan," she said.
Most of the shops and attractions at the South Street Seaport are still boarded up.
Pasanella said he and his wife, Rebecca Robertson, 38, worked around the clock to get their wine shop open. Pasanella and Son Vintners is one of the few back in business.
Still, Pasanella said he feels optimistic about the future of the neighborhood, where he's lived since 2002.
"I do see a comeback and we'll definitely have that momentum returning," he said.
Sandy damaged parts of the iconic boardwalk and flooded or destroyed hundreds of businesses and homes.
The neighborhood has improved in the past six months, but much more work is needed, said Chuck Reichenthal, the district manager of Community Board 13.
"The unity that was created after the storm is still there, but we have to help people who haven't been able to finish their work," he said.
The Cyclone and Luna Park opened in March and the crowds have been huge, Reichenthal said. The beach will be open for visitors on Memorial Day weekend with new lifeguard stations and bathrooms, he added.
The Cyclones minor league baseball team will play its season at MCU Park.
"All of those are positive," he said.
But Coney Island is a long way from normal. Utility restoration still isn't complete.
Queens sustained $483 million in damage, the highest in the city, according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration, with most of it stretching across the borough's southern edge.
"You can see the stress on people's faces even today," said Dan Mundy, 74, a lifelong Broad Channel resident.
Jonathan L. Gaska, the district manager of Community Board 14, which covers the Rockaways, said the boardwalk will not be quickly restored and business owners are concerned about how that could affect summer sales.
"Last year we had the best summer we had in decades in terms of tourism. Now we're afraid they're going to be ghost towns," he said.
Mundy, who has been helping his neighbors with their repairs and renovations since October, said the community working together will help make the recovery efforts smoother.
"It's amazing what a human can endure, and they've been doing it for six months now," he said.