By Wayne Perry and David B. Caruso
Boardwalks have been rebuilt, sea walls erected, bays cleared of debris and thousands of homes restored three years after Superstorm Sandy pummeled coasts of New Jersey and New York. Yet the rebuilding effort is not finished. Many homes still need to be repaired or rebuilt. Crucial work to shore up infrastructure is ongoing, or still hasn’t started.
A look at where things stand three years after the Oct. 29, 2012, storm:
Many seaside communities hit hard by Sandy show few obvious signs of the disaster. But look closer and you can still find stray buildings with boarded-up windows and sandy lots where houses were demolished and never rebuilt. Neither the federal government nor the states keep reliable statistics on how many damaged homes and businesses are still vacant or in need of repair. More than 8,000 homeowners remain active in New Jersey’s main rebuilding grant program. In New York City’s Breezy Point neighborhood, 62 of the 355 homes destroyed by flood and fire have yet to be rebuilt. Thousands of homeowners are still fighting with their insurance companies over the cost of repairs. Many homes along the coast have been elevated to get them out of harm’s way for the next big storm, but many more have simply been rebuilt as they were, leaving owners vulnerable to both future storm surges and rising insurance premiums.
Sandy’s salty floodwaters did lasting damage to the tunnels that carry trains and cars beneath New York City’s rivers. Manhattan’s destroyed South Ferry subway station is still being rebuilt and won’t reopen until 2018. A vehicle tunnel linking Manhattan to Brooklyn will be closed on weeknights for the next three years for rehabilitation. Of nine damaged subway tunnels, seven still need major work. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subway system, is spending $3.8 billion on repairs and anti-flooding measures. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is still evaluating long-term repairs to its road and rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River. Amtrak was been warning that its tunnels in and out of Manhattan also need major rehabilitation. Taking them out of service for repairs in the coming years could cause major disruptions in rail service on the corridor between Washington and Boston. New Jersey has rebuilt Route 35, the second-busiest north-south highway along the Jersey shore.
All but one of the Jersey shore’s famed beach boardwalks have been rebuilt; the last one, in Long Branch, is underway. They were among the first tangible signs of recovery; shore towns made rebuilding the walkways a priority to show residents things were getting back to normal. (A storm-wrecked boardwalk in Seaside Heights, where the MTV show “Jersey Shore” was filmed, was rebuilt twice; part of it caught fire in 2013). In New York City, the Rockaway Beach boardwalk is still being rebuilt, this time with flood defenses that include baffle walls to hold back the surf. Manhattan’s South Street Seaport is still being rebuilt. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently put the district on its list of most endangered historic places in the country because of the ambition of the redevelopment plans.
Many billions of dollars are now being spent to protect critical infrastructure from future storms, including electrical utilities and water and sewage treatment plants. In Sea Bright, New Jersey, repairs are being made to a damaged oceanfront rock sea wall, but other hard-hit communities’ storm protection plans remain on the drawing board. The cost of storm-proofing low-lying urban areas could be astronomical. The federal government sponsored a $1 billion contest to promote innovative protection systems, including breakwaters, berms and drainage canals that can keep water out of low-lying parts of New York City, and riverside New Jersey cities like Hoboken and Weehawken.
HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
A slew of hospitals, nursing homes and clinics that had to be evacuated and temporarily closed because of the storm are back in business, but many are still restoring damaged infrastructure or replacing it with something more flood-resistant. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given New York City hospitals more than $2.7 billion to restore their campuses and do things like build new floodwalls and relocate emergency generators. One damaged full-service hospital, in Long Beach, New York, never reopened after the storm, although the island now has an emergency room.
Parry reported from Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Caruso reported from New York City. Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
© 2015 The Associated Press.
Read our latest coverage of Superstorm Sandy recovery: