What does “home” mean to us? We all take it for granted until we are forced to face life without it. This is a story dedicated to our fellow Long Islanders who suffered the devastating loss of their homes and possessions during Hurricane Sandy, who lived in hotels, in friend’s and family’s basements, whose lives and those of their children were severely disrupted and who decided to rebuild and reclaim what is rightfully theirs.
When an Amityville couple contacted our firm the day after Hurricane Sandy, I didn’t anticipate the journey we would be taking together. Their story is one of courage and determination to rebuild their home, a home they had just completed weeks before Hurricane Sandy hit. According to Bob, “It took 11 long months, with what seemed like an uphill battle with FEMA. We lived at a family member’s house, then a hotel that at first had no electric, then into an apartment in Amityville to be near our son’s elementary school and our home to watch the slow and painful process to get the structure restored to habitability, during which time we were trying to keep spirits up by planning and implementing the decorating phase.”
Now, finally back to life in the nurturing environment of their restored home, they have qualified for Governor Cuomo’s New York Rising program and have opted to leave their home again for the estimated four to five months it will take to raise it rather than live with the threat of another hurricane devastation that might occur.
But this time is different. They know they will return shortly to the home that means so much to them, assured of its safety and sustainability.
Here are some of their thoughts on how Hurricane Sandy affected their lives, how their new home makes them feel and why they chose to leave again.
“To say in the past two and a half years after Hurricane Sandy we have not had our share of ups and down, highs and lows would be an understatement. We went from the joyous feeling of getting our last two pieces of furniture a week before Hurricane Sandy, to the devastating morning after Hurricane Sandy when we rushed home only to wade through knee-high water from blocks away. We found that our newly renovated dream home had been flooded with over three feet of what we later found out to be a mixture of sea water, sea mud, home heating oil from overturned heating oil tanks mixed with what else we’re still not sure.
What we saw when we opened our new front doors was a shock. We walked from room to room only to find what we worked so hard for was now basically a wet heap of garbage. Material things like furniture, flooring, toys, clothing etc. can be replaced; it was the family memories and mementos which were accumulated over a lifetime that were the hardest to see destroyed.
We had to make a decision as to what direction our future would go. We opted to stay in our home were we lived from the day we were married almost 16 years ago and the only home our son had ever known. We also had grown to love Amityville, “the friendly town by the bay”. It was an easy choice; the three of us built our dream home once. We could do it again. But this time, we would need a little help, not only with the Hurricane clean up and repairs, but with the process of making our house a home again.
This is when Natalie Weinstein came into our lives. After 11 long months, we finally moved back into a repaired house, but not a finished home. Natalie and her team of professionals stepped in and started to do what they are known for. The results are stunning and we couldn’t be happier. Our house is now a warm and inviting home.
While this was going on, an unbelievable program from New York State and Governor Cuomo was being offered. We qualified for it because of the location of our home. This program has become known as New York Rising, giving homeowners a chance to raise their homes above the new FEMA 100 year flood height zone. We opted into this program. As of the writing of this article, even though we have been working with our New York Rising caseworker from the day the program was first offered, we are just in the infancy of the elevation process. Once we receive the final approval from New York Rising, we will have to leave our home once again while it is being lifted. When the house is elevated, we are hopeful that once and for all we will be done with the highs and lows of Hurricane Sandy and be able to live in our dream home as we initially hoped two and a half years ago.”