The state has begun demolishing homes bought up in a Staten Island neighborhood ravaged by Hurricane Sandy as homeowners head for higher ground. NY1's Vivian Lee filed the following report.
Nancy Gardini and her mother co-owned a house on Foxbeach Avenue in Oakwood Beach. Thursday was demolition day, after they sold the house to the state weeks ago. They became the first homeowners to finish the entire government home buyout process for Sandy victims, but not the last.
"To watch them tear something that you love down, and to know that in years from now I can never come back and say oh I used to live there, that's what's hitting me the hardest," Gardini said.
So far, 164 homes in Oakwood Beach now have offers on the table. Another 25 deals will close next week. By late next year, the neighborhood will be leveled and managed as marshland, acting as a natural speed bump for destructive storm surges.
"It will be an area that will protect as water comes in, absorb the water and protect the homes that are beyond this area," said Seth Diamond, director of the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery. "It shows the governor responded to the people of Oakwood Beach, who really after years of inundation from Sandy but from many storms before just faced tremendous obstacles."
For Nancy, it's a closing chapter to Sandy, and a new one away from the dangers and cost of living in a flood zone.
"It's best for everybody to find somewhere else to go," Gardini said.
"Now this will be turned into something that benefits the entire Staten Island area," Diamond added.
That benefit can only happen, officials say, if all homeowners agree to leave a neighborhood deemed flood-prone. At least one other waterfront community is in buyout talks.
On average, the government offered $400,000 per home in the neighborhood. The money will help residents move elsewhere as they try to move on with their lives.