Thousands of Long Islanders are still struggling two years after superstorm Sandy, and will likely be rebuilding their battered homes and bruised lives for years to come. Here are some of their stories.
Amal Wahib, homeowner
Wahib, 68, demolished her Long Beach house and replaced it with a new modular home using insurance, personal funds and money borrowed from her sons. She expects an NY Rising award that she will use to repay her sons. "We demolished the house and built a modular house on a new elevated foundation. I'm not homeless anymore, thank God. But we had a lot of problems with construction and we're still having problems. We had cracks and now I'm seeing other, smaller cracks. I have to put a blanket at the stairs to keep the heat downstairs and need a door there. I shouldn't get upset over small things, but I do. Sometimes I don't want to deal with anything. "I fixed up my house before I retired in May 2012, created an office and studio to work as an art therapist. Everything's gone. I'm not doing my therapy practice like I wanted to. A lot of people on my block aren't home yet and I feel bad complaining. But it's going to be traumatic for quite a while. It upsets me to see a lot of rain. There's a lot of pictures in my head [from Sandy], of soldiers, trucks, burned cars. When I was young in Egypt I had three wars in my life and you say, 'Oh my God, it's war again.' Trauma doesn't go away. You make peace with it, but it comes back to you when you see a reminder. It's not an easy thing."
Eve Hough, homeowner
In the days after Sandy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and local politicians comforted Hough as they stood by her damaged bayfront house in Lindenhurst. That home is now elevated with NY Rising money, but not fully repaired. She lives in her daughters' homes. "[People] say why isn't your house done, it's a little house and all the other houses are done. I say I don't know. I was underinsured. The house was free and clear, and I didn't have the money for that kind of investment in flood insurance. "I just want to go home, to my own house, my own bed, take my dog with me. Then you think how am I going to be able to afford it. You need pots and dishes and silverware and there's no money. It's like starting over and how am I going to do this. You worry ... I had a bad anxiety attack, so bad I thought I was going to die. I'm 73 and it's hard. I never dreamed it would be like this."
James Hodge, homeowner
Hodge, 37, works for the city of Long Beach and volunteers as board chairman at the Martin Luther King Center, where a group of volunteers distributed food and supplies to Sandy victims, and where he slept for months. His house in the North Park neighborhood of Long Beach is gutted and he, his father and two brothers stay with friends and relatives. "It's been hard, but a couch is better than having to sleep outside. I'm grateful to God that I have a couch to sleep on; a bed will come eventually. I just got my first check from NY Rising last month. My architect is working with a NY Rising team to see if the house has to be taken down. I may not have enough personal money to do it. I'd have to work hard and save up, or get a loan. "Everyone I talk to, co-workers and others in the same situation, say that the NY Rising's [maximum] award will not be enough to rebuild. Some individuals told me they just don't have the money to finish, and they can't get a loan and that's why they aren't home yet. A lot of my neighbors are home, but they're renters and some of them are still living in houses that still have the effects of Sandy -- mold behind the walls and floors. They tell me their son is coughing, that asthma has picked up a great deal since Sandy. Some of these people feel they don't have anywhere else to go."
Ronnie Besemer, tavern owner
Besemer, 66, owns The Seabreeze in Babylon. He made repairs with his own money and credit card debt. Approved for $50,000 from NY Rising, he'd only received $6,000 as of late September and spoke then about his frustration. Soon after Newsday inquired about his case, he received most of the rest of his award. "They keep telling me it's approved, but it's always one more thing, one more thing and you can't talk to anyone there. I've given them every piece of information they asked for: all the property I own, income taxes and corporate taxes for the last three years; my driver's license and copy of my passport; they made me pose in front in my awning outside and they took a picture of me. I just got an email saying 'due to its proximity to tidal wetlands, our environmental team has requested a copy of any permits or notices that permits were not required for the shed elevation.' I went to the building department of the Village of Babylon to get a letter saying I didn't need a permit. This is a little $1,500 tin shed on top of a piece of plywood and cinder blocks. I keep the empty beer bottles out there. This is what is keeping me now from getting the money."