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Six Months After Sandy: Tottenville Residents Torn Between Rebuilding, Taking Buyouts

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Nearly six months to the day that Hurricane Sandy came ashore with its destructive and deadly wind and water, thousands of New Yorkers still feel the effects of the storm. All this week, NY1 is checking in with victims of the storm, monitoring agency responses in the continuing aftermath and revisiting communities devastated by Sandy's impact. Staten Island borough reporter Amanda Farinacci begins the week's coverage in Tottenville.

All that is left of the Tottenville home where 13-year-old Angela Dresch lived is its footprint. A deadly wave brought on by Hurricane Sandy slammed into the waterfront property and destroyed it, burying Angela and her father, George, under its weight.

Their deaths are remembered on their quiet street with signs on utility poles and a makeshift memorial where the house once stood.

"In defiance of all the problems and disaster there is a tenacity that says 'We are going to come back. We will not let this conquer us,'" said James Pistilli of the Tottenville Civic Association.

Just across the street, a flag that reads "Don't give up the ship" hangs in what used to be the front yard of a home no longer there.

All over the neighborhood residents lovingly call "Forgottenville," there are various levels of progress, from homes that have yet to be touched to others nearly ready for its residents to return.

"I think they're building it back pretty good. I mean, there's people in their houses already," said Anthony Serafino, whose house was damaged by Sandy. "All you see is construction trucks all around here, so it's getting close."

Like so many other Sandy-damaged neighborhoods, Tottenville is at a crossroads. Residents said they would like nothing more than to stay in the community they know and love, but say they do not know if it is possible given new building requirements. That has got them seriously considering the government's buyout program.

"We are looking at all the options. They are saying that my house must be lifted 10 feet. Is it real? Who's going to -- is the government going to help me? Because I will not be able to afford that kind of work," said Andrey Kochnev, a Tottenville resident.

On a sunny spring day, it's hard to imagine the majestic waters of the Raritan Bay could be turbulent and destructive. The storm has left residents with an eerie and lasting reminder of its force.

At the entrance of nearby Conference House Park, a Christmas tree has been planted.
In several weeks, a plaque will be unveiled there, with an inscription bearing the words "The Spirit Of Tottenville."

The tree is meant to be a symbol of rebirth, a constant reminder to residents that the neighborhood will endure and life will begin anew.

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