What’s left after Hurricane Sandy

We are still not back in our place and probably won't be until December or possibly January.  Once we move back in everything will basically go back to normal.  For the people who have lost their homes in areas of New Jersey, Staten Island and Brooklyn life will never just go back to normal.  Their homes are simply gone.

When you see the photos of these homes you can see that there is nothing left to build on, no repairs to be done.  These homes will have to be bulldozed.  Then what?  Many of the people who owned these homes did not have flood insurance.  Where do they rebuild?  Do they rebuild homes in an area that could easily be destroyed by a hurricane again next year? 

I do not know what the worth of these homes prior to the hurricane but here is what I would propose.  Perhaps the Federal Government could come up with a proposal for each of those individual plots of lands and buy each owner out.  It would have to be enough money for each family to relocate easily.  Then take those large tracts of land that have now become part of the shoreline and create national parks.  Parks that can take the wrath of another Sandy.  Parks that can embrace Mother Nature without leaving costly clean-ups and devastation. 

I feel absolutely terrible for every individual who has been literally taken by surprise but pouring money into their properties does not make sense for anyone.  It is a time to think with our heads not with our hearts. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. WA

    Especially in a rising seas and global “temperatures seem to be increasing” environment. Great Idea. And I avoided that contentious phrase finally.

  2. Lisa Abeyta

    So sorry for your own losses and those of so many around you. One of my close friends was involved in the charrette developed after Katrina hit New Orleans, and the ideas and questions you ask are exactly what they addressed – and where rebuilding made sense, there were plans developed to not only do something safer but something better, since in many places everything had to start over from the ground up.

  3. BillMcNeely

    Common sense is often an uncommon virtue after one of these disasters lets hope your advice is heeded.

    1. Gotham Gal

      it is hard to have any common sense when it has to do with your home.

      1. BillMcNeely

        I meant the folks in the local government not the homeowners.I lived through a hurricane and a couple of tornados in Houston 82-83. I remember the Destruction well.

        1. Gotham Gal

          i’m pretty sure government rarely has any common sense.

          1. falicon

            +100 (and one of the few things that literally had me LOL) 😉

  4. Laura Yecies

    I wonder what percentage of the expenditures from the flood insurance program are for properties that have flooded more than once – I remember reading that it is amazingly high – even over 75%. We need to help people rebuild but do it in a place that is less prone to flooding.

    1. Gotham Gal

      good question. i read this week about a location in the south that has rebuilt so many times that each individual has been given roughly $60K a person from the government over the past few decades to rebuild in the same location. not sure i understand how that makes sense.

  5. Stuart Willson

    Given the high likelihood that adverse weather events and flooding continue, and a reasonable likelihood that they escalate, we should be asking ourselves not only what are the worst-case scenarios today (perhaps, Sandy), but tomorrow and in 5-10-15 years, and then whether the best solution is avoidance or prevention. It may be a combination of both, but we seem to be in the top of the 1st inning in even thinking about modern – but capital intense – methods of prevention, whether here or in flood-prone areas like New Orleans. I found this interesting, if not particularly detailed: http://www.nytimes.com/2012

  6. JLM

    .Not being able to rebuild after a storm is more common than one might think. Much of it has to do with the “dune line” concept which sets forth a line at which one cannot build closer to the sea.Much of the erosion and build up of the coast is the product of littoral drift — the passage of sand along the coast driven by parallel currents.In the case of some barrier islands like Folly Beach in SC, the development of the jetties protecting the entrance to Charleston Harbor has impacted the flows of the littoral drift resulting in build up of Sullivan’s Island to the north and the erosion of Folly Beach to the south.These are tough issues because nobody really wants to suggest that the Charleston Harbor jetties should be removed and therefore every so often the Corps of Engineers undertakes a beachfront nourishment program at huge expense effectively drawing sand from the coastal zone and depositing it on the beach. A stop gap measure which tickles Mother Nature’s chin until she unleashes a brutal hurricane to undo it all.In places like Seabright, NJ and Folly Beach, SC — entire rows of homes will never be rebuilt. The Washout in Folly Beach removed an entire row of homes so much so that property a block inland became beach front property.GG’s idea of creating coastal zones of public property is a great solution but it has to overcome the political hurdles before it can grapple with the natural implications.Nobody has ever agreed with anyone else’s proposed value of their oceanfront home..

    1. Gotham Gal

      the value of those homes on the ocean that have zero insurance to cover them now have a value of zero. the government has an insurance that you can buy if you are in an ocean front area that only covers up to $500K if you have it. insurance companies do not want to cover peoples homes in those flood areas. that says something right there.

      1. JLM

        .I have flood insurance and it is a huge scam. It protects you against moving water while your core insurance protects you against wind and wind blown water.Meanwhile you can still buy contents and personal articles floaters (funny choice of a word given the context).The insurance companies have basically made the first $500K a public risk. Remember you are only insuring the value of improvements and not the land value.The greatest historic appreciation of any real estate value in the US is the first 5 years after a devastating hurricane.This is particularly true if one can buy a structure that has been damaged in its unrepaired condition and then repair it.In about 2 months you could make a bloody fortune buying truckloads of plywood in the west and trucking them to NY/NJ and selling them on street corners.Simple plywood futures delivered arbitrage..

  7. awaldstein

    Gutsy suggestion.The logic and economics is sound but human behavior around our homes is illogical at its core.I’ve heard this somewhere else being talked about (news at the gym?) but the fortitude to make this so is unlikely IMO.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i think you humble opinion is correct.

  8. William Mougayar

    That’s a great idea, but is the government thinking about it? I haven’t checked to see what Gov. Cuomo’s position is on it.Along with that, I also like Albert Wenger’s idea of exploring solutions for protecting the area from future such disasters http://continuations.com/po

    1. Gotham Gal

      not sure what cuomos position is here.

  9. Jo

    We had a similar issue here in Christchurch, New Zealand. We had two large earthquakes approx two years ago. Large tracts of residential large have become “red zones”. These areas are unable to be built on because the land did not perform well in the earthquakes i.e lots of liquifaction and land movement. The government has agreed to pay out each owner on the value of the land (and their individual insurance covers the value of the house). People have been able to move on and find a new house in another area. The red zones will all revert to parks for the forseeable future.

  10. Wavelengths

    My heart goes out to you and everyone who has felt the effects of Sandy.Not to take anything from your horrible displacement, but many people are also displaced and even long-term homeless because of factors completely outside of their control.I noticed this statistic in your comment below: “[E]ach individual has been given roughly $60K a person from the government over the past few decades to rebuild in the same location.When I first looked at the colossal bank bailouts, started under George W. Bush, I did a quick calculation of what that money would mean, per household (let’s say) if it were given to the people instead of the banks. (Remember that GW “gave” people something like $200 each in one year in his generous rebate program. So that was, what, dinner and a movie? Certainly not a life-changing influx of capital.)If that bank-bailout money had gone to real people on “Main Street,” I’m betting that for the most part they would have paid their mortgages, paid their car payments, supported “the system” by trying to be proper citizens, and each in his/her own way would have pumped money back into the economy without as much need for an outside stimulus package. It would have been organic.I love your idea of buying back this sea-front land at some figure that would allow people to rebuild their lives. If they were contributing citizens before, they will be so again — assuming they can get their feet under them before despair takes hold. Everyone would win. And if there were incentives for rebuilding in flood-impacted areas than can be better protected in the future, then give incentives for the displaced people to be able to get back close to their original homes.”Home” is far more than brick-and-mortar. Even though I know you and Fred and family are insulated from some of the trauma through your resources, I still know that the impact is there and is debilitating.So much of our lives we just assume that the toothbrush is “there,” the cooking pot is “there,” the wardrobe is organized “just so,” and we can make our daily decisions without a lot of concentration. Losing that efficiency, and calm, and security, is huge.If your neighborhood is in the “safe” zone, I know it will mean a lot to you all when you can drive down the familiar streets, park in the right place, pull the key out, and walk through your own front door. People who have never been displaced to this level have no idea.Best to you, and to all your millions of neighbors on the eastern seaboard who are dealing with this aftermath.

    1. Gotham Gal

      great comments. i couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Great sense. We need to get sustainability into our heads, more than ever before…

  11. Velocity Local

    Every storm brings another tomorrow. A rainbow shines after each rain. We can always pick up from the losses we had. Sandy hurricane somehow an eye opener that almost everything here is perishable. We can always expect for good outcome and rebuild new hope. It’s never too late for new beginning do u believe?