Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday another round of buyouts in a Staten Island neighborhood ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Josh Robin filed the following report.
For Marlena DeBiaso, what's left are memories.
“This was my heaven. My oasis,” DeBiaso said.
“It's my heartbreak, not because of the house, but because my whole life changed,” she said.
Changed in Hurricane Sandy. Her mother was killed in the flood.
"She must have passed out from the hypothermia because she said to my sister, ‘I can't do this anymore.’ And she passed away then," DeBiaso said.
Some help came on Monday, with word homes in Ocean Breeze on Staten Island can return to nature. A state plan pays homeowners the market value before the storm.
Cuomo said it's about making things easier for storm victims and protecting people from potential future storms.
"People at one point say 'Enough. Enough. I don't want to go through it again. I don't want to go through the trauma,'” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
That was also the case with Joe Herrnkind, another Ocean Breeze resident. He tore down one property too dangerous to stay. At another, he went through a maddening cycle of rebuilding and battling mold.
"This was a year in our lives that was taken away,” said Herrnkind.
This is the second buyout location in the city with 129 properties eligible. Most, not all, property owners are said to be interested
A buyout in Oakwood Beach in Staten Island has signed up roughly three out of four homeowners.
The state program has been a rare flashpoint between Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg. The mayor has stressed waterfront rebuilding, the governor says nature should take over areas where people no longer want to live.
Monday, a usual Bloomberg ally blasted City Hall for not buying out more.
"It’s so simple,” said Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro. “Just pay them out it’s simple they have no home, why are you negotiating? They have no home, just give them what it's worth.”
The program offers participants additional money for continuing to live on Staten Island.
De Biaso wants to stay.
So does Herrnkind, with a key condition.
"On higher ground,” he said. “I'll come and visit the water but I never want to be by it again."