NYC Neighborhood Hit Hard by Superstorm Sandy Would Rather Sell Than Rebuild

PHOTO: A destroyed home is viewed in the Oakwood Beach neighborhood in Staten Island, Feb. 5, 2013, in New York City.
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While Superstorm Sandy's devastation along the New York and New Jersey coastlines six months ago led to enthusiastic calls to rebuild, one Staten Island neighborhood has chosen a different course: sell.

The residents of Oakwood Beach, a small neighborhood that faces the Atlantic ocean on Staten Island's southeast coast, held a community meeting days after Sandy had raged through, killing three residents and destroying dozens of homes.

Community leader Joe Tirone Jr. said it was at that meeting that he casually floated an idea past his neighbors.

"After the storm, we had a community meeting, and just about everybody attended, and one of the things we said was that there is a government program and would anybody be interested in the government buying your home, and everybody raised their hand," Tirone said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered to pay Oakwood Beach residents 100 percent of their homes' value before the storm hit, plus a 5 percent bonus if the residents stayed in Richmond County. Now, more than 90 percent of the community has taken steps to participate in the program, Tirone said.

Cuomo hopes to build a "buffer zone" on the most vulnerable parts of the New York coast to prevent against future storms, he said.

"There are some parcels that Mother Nature owns," Cuomo said in his annual State of the State address this year. "She may only visit once every few years, but she owns the parcel, and when she comes to visit, she visits."

Oakwood Beach was located in a particularly low-lying and marshy area. The buyout program would ensure that the land remains "vacant in perpetuity," said New York state officials.

Madeline Fradella, a resident of the community who has agreed to the buyout, told ABC New York station WABC that the memories of Superstorm Sandy are just too painful, and it is time to go.

"I'm afraid to be here," says Fradella. "My neighbor drowned in his basement. A lot of lives were lost here. When these storms come, they get worse and worse."

The small Staten Island community stands in contrast to many other areas hit hard by Sandy, where construction efforts are well underway to repair homes, boardwalks and highways that were destroyed in October.

In Breezy Point, a small community on the tip of New York's Rockaway peninsula in Queens, residents said immediately after the storm that they would work to rebuild their homes, destroyed by the storm and a resulting fire. Today, construction crews are working to have some of the homes ready by summer.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie vowed to rebuild the broken boardwalks and obtain federal funding for residents quickly so that they could begin construction on their homes.

"As a kid who was born and raised in this state and who spent a lot of time over my life, both my childhood and my adult life, at the Jersey Shore, we'll rebuild it. No question in my mind, we'll rebuild it," the governor said last November.

Today, Christie announced the approval of $1.83 billion in federal funds for rebuilding and recovery efforts.

Congress approved more than $60 billion in disaster relief funding to help with the rebuilding efforts.

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