Fire-damaged Breezy Point still ravaged by Superstorm Sandy

Josh Einiger reports on the signs of progress
October 29, 2013 3:33:13 PM PDT
One of the worst scenes in our area came at the height of Superstorm Sandy in Queens, when a flooded Breezy Point erupted in flames.

Firefighters who were trapped and unable to reach the fire said it looked like hell.

The miracle is that no one was killed or seriously injured in the blaze. But it left a wasteland that is still struggling to make a comeback.

Some houses have been rebuild, but most have not. And when you look at Breezy Point, there are signs of progress. But in other areas, there is still a long way to go.

After all, what happened there one year ago simply obliterated parts of the town. Sandy's flood surge moved unchecked through the area, and when that water got to one home's electrical system, it sparked a roaring inferno that just couldn't be stopped.

Between the flames and the water, more than 10 percent of the homes were completely wiped out.

The process to get things built and moving again is going slowly, but most importantly, it's getting there.

"Everything is moving along, getting back to the way it should be," resident Mari Ellen Mack said. "It's a great community. It's just the beginning, but it's moving along."

Residents marked the anniversary with a day of community service, as volunteers planted sea grass at the top of a quarter-mile-long dune built to protect the remote beach community, where more than 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

The teams working along the sand ridge included Wayne and Jo Jo Barca, whose house filled with water up to the second floor.

They've spent the past year rebuilding. Wayne worked so hard that he wound up in the emergency room with heat exhaustion over the summer.

"It's been a lot of work," he said. "And thank God for all the volunteers."

A crew of 12 firefighters helped him rip out his soggy floors. Workers with a city program, Rapid Repairs, helped get the heat back on.

The cooperative that manages Breezy Point paid for the dune itself, used its own sand and harvested its own sea grass for the dune project.

"One year ago, we were in total chaos and complete devastation in this community," said Arthur Lighthall, the cooperative's general manager.

"We are not done yet," he said.


(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)