Sandy-hit homeowner blocked from rebuilding

Nina Pineda has a 7 On Your Side report
Seven On Your Side
October 8, 2013 3:12:36 PM PDT
A woman who lost so much when Superstorm Sandy hit, thought she would also lose the battle for her family's home.

She says the town of Long Beach refused to let her rebuild.

"We would leave New York City and come here for the whole summer and go to the beach," said Long Beach homeowner Edith Bonizio.

When the bay met the ocean during Sandy, she lost everything except the house which has been in her family for half a century.

But now Edith says she could lose that too.

"I thought it was bad, the water took my home, but this is worse. This is my hometown," she said.

She was talking about the town of Long Beach. While many of her neighbors are busy building up around her, the town denied her request to do the same. The sticking point?

An empty lot she bought from her parents behind the lot her house sits on. She's held onto it as an investment. But now the town says she can build up only if she merges the two properties into one.

"I sleep at night crying. I had it all planned. And my plan's gone," Bonizio said.

A plan worth plenty. The lot's a block from the beach.

"Right now I could build on this and sell an $800,000 home on it." ('But now the town's trying to take it away?) "Right."

She says the town's reason to combine the lot is bogus. Her permit denial points to a utility room and deck built in the '70's. A town rep told us since it extends just over her back lot, the properties are being used as one already.

"It's extortion you know, because they'll give me permission to build if I sign over my two properties," she said.

She refused. So building stopped. And while her neighbors were home by summer, Edith's family has been living on FEMA subsidies in a church. They haven't been home since the days after the storm.

But something changed drastically after 7 On Your Side asked the town of Long Beach what was going on.

Work was able to begin. Edith says she got a call to pick up her permit, no strings, to combine the two lots attached.

"We got the permit 8 hours after we were together," she said. "7 on my side gave my life back, that's all I can say!".

Edith says she was told by Long Beach's head building offical that her properties are now considered two, not one, a major victory. She may still have to go before the zoning board to make it official, but she hopes to be home by Thanksgiving.