After Sandy, NYC Will Undertake Unprecedented Reshaping of Neighborhoods

Over the weekend it was announced that New York City will need to demolish hundreds of homes damaged during Superstorm Sandy. The complicated process for determining what will be rebuilt has yet to begin.
November 19, 2012, 12pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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At least 200, and up to 500 more, one- and two-family houses in Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn were so damaged by the storm that "they pose a danger to public safety and other buildings nearby," and are facing imminent demolition, reports William K. Rashbaum. In an interview late last week, Robert L. LiMandri, commissioner of the city's Buildings Department, "said neither he nor his staff could recall the city ever undertaking this kind of broad reshaping of its neighborhoods."

“We’ve never had this scale before,” Mr. LiMandri said. “This is what New Yorkers have read about in many other places and have never seen, so it is definitely unprecedented. And by the same token, when you walk around in these communities, people are scared and worried, and we’re trying to make every effort to be up front and share with them what they need to do.”

Complicating matters, many of the owners of the structures facing demolition are scattered elsewhere - "with friends or family or in hotels or shelters" - and may be difficult to contact before their properties are torn down, especially where the danger is imminent. 

“This is not easy, in this case, because of all these displaced people, but we’re going to do the best we can, but we may have to move on it if we can’t find them,” Mr. LiMandri said.

"Eric A. Ulrich, a Republican city councilman from Queens who represents Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, Broad Channel and some of the other affected neighborhoods, said that he had not been notified of the demolitions, but that the forced destruction of people’s homes would come as a terrible shock," writes Rashbaum.

“My constituents have been through so much, and they are just so distraught, and if that were to happen and if they were told that the home that they grew up in or they bought has to be taken against their will, it’s just devastating news,” Ulrich said.

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Published on Saturday, November 17, 2012 in The New York Times
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