New York City Will Demolish At Least 200 Hurricane-Damaged Homes

Kathy Lahey sifts through her damaged home for items to save November 4, 2012 in the Breezy Point neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. With the death toll currently over 100 and millions of homes and businesses without power, the US east coast is attempting to recover from the effects of floods, fires and power outages brought on by Superstorm Sandy.
Destroyed homes in Breezy Point. Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Hundreds of New York City homes wrecked by Hurricane Sandy will be demolished after being deemed hazardous to the safety of the public and to nearby buildings. "About 200 homes will be bulldozed in the coming weeks and months, almost all of them one- and two-family houses on Staten Island, in Queens and Brooklyn," reports the New York Times. "That is in addition to 200 houses that are already partially or completely burned down, washed away or otherwise damaged; those sites will also be cleared."

The city is inspecting close to 500 other buildings which might need to come down. “We’ve never had this scale before,” said Buildings Department commissioner Robert L. LiMandri. “This is what New Yorkers have read about in many other places and have never seen, so it is definitely unprecedented. And by the same token, when you walk around in these communities, people are scared and worried, and we’re trying to make every effort to be up front and share with them what they need to do." (For a little comparison, thousands of buildings were razed in New Orleans post-Katrina, but this is still awful.)

All the demolition-marked homes were older and near water. A small number of homes in the Bronx may come down, while none in Manhattan appear endangered.

Some people may not even be contacted before their houses are demolished. Per the Times:

But, in some cases, where the danger is imminent, the department will issue an emergency declaration to bulldoze the buildings, even if the owners have not been contacted.

“This is not easy, in this case, because of all these displaced people, but we’re going to do the best we can, but we may have to move on it if we can’t find them,” Mr. LiMandri said.

And it gets worse:

Eric A. Ulrich, a Republican city councilman from Queens who represents Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, Broad Channel and some of the other affected neighborhoods, said that he had not been notified of the demolitions, but that the forced destruction of people’s homes would come as a terrible shock.

“My constituents have been through so much, and they are just so distraught, and if that were to happen and if they were told that the home that they grew up in or they bought has to be taken against their will, it’s just devastating news,” he said.

The issue of rebuilding — as well as who'll pay for the demolition — remains a question mark.

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