A Staten Island neighborhood ravaged by Hurricane Sandy is slowly returning to nature, as work is underway to knock down the damaged homes in Oakwood Beach. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
A wooden marker identifies the spot where a tiny beach bungalow once stood at 128 Fox Beach Avenue.
The house is one of 39 that have been demolished so far as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's post-Hurricane Sandy buyout plan.
"There's active demolition site, and there's active filling of sites going on," said Rebecca Sinclair of the governor's Office of Storm Recovery.
Under the plan announced last year, residents in the most flood-prone areas can sell their homes to the state for 100 percent of pre-storm value, minus any money already received from flood insurance or federal loans.
Oakwood Beach was selected for the pilot program, and 325 homeowners applied. So far, the state has offered to buy out 312 of them. More than 200 have already closed.
"We do have a majority of homeowners are first of all, looking for new homes in Staten Island and have relocated within Staten Island," Sinclair said.
About five houses are demolished per week, and they won't be rebuilt. Instead, the area will eventually become part of the blue belt and expanded wetlands, natural buffers meant to protect the surrounding communities from future flooding and storm damage.
"You really see sort of the return to nature happening," Sinclair said. "It feels very natural as you're progressing towards the ocean to see the wildlife and the trees and the phragmites and all of that. I mean, that is happening, sort of that reclamation, on its own."
The state buyout has also been offered to residents in nearby Ocean Breeze and Graham Beach. All told, officials expect to acquire some 600 parcels of land on Staten Island to be returned to nature.
Appraisals will begin in Graham Beach in the coming weeks. So far, 80 residents have applied for the buyout in Ocean Breeze, with 20 offers to purchase so far.
Officials say it will take about a year to acquire and demolish all of the homes at a cost of $400 million.