Thousands still not home 5 years after Superstorm Sandy

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Danielle Leigh reports on the less fortunate who still do not have a home five years after Superstorm Sandy.

Five years after Superstorm Sandy severely damaged Long Island, the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery, (GOSR) said nearly 70 percent of the 10,889 families who received federal dollars to rebuild have completed repairs on their homes.

Unlike New York City's Build it Back program, the state's recovery program, dubbed New York Rising, took a hands-off approach to oversee the recovery efforts by approving applications and guaranteeing federal compliance. However, the program left it up to individual families to hire contractors and oversee their home repairs.

New York Rising doled out federal award money in segments at certain benchmarks in the reconstruction process and was available to offer guidance when needed.

"We are helping them all along the way," said GOSR Executive Director Lisa Bova-Hiatt.

Several of the 3,310 families who have yet to move back into their homes complain GOSR hasn't done enough to guide them through a litany of complications that have led to delays.

Issues have included complaints about shoddy construction, contractors who walked off the job unfinished, billing disputes and trouble obtaining city construction permits.

"It's just demeaning and disgraceful what is going on," said Susan Goldstone, who lives in Oceanside. "You've got families who have had eight, 10, 12 case managers."

"Or they just don't have a record for all the information that we've given them," said Denise Scharf, who lives in Babylon.

"Screaming into the other end of the telephone, yes," said John Scharf, Denise's husband.

"They don't know anything," complained Elsie Alcius, who lives in Babylon. "It's very frustrating."

Those families shared emails with 7 On Your Side Investigates complaining to GOSR about having to resubmit paperwork multiple times and also expressing confusion about who their current case manager actually was.

Bova-Hiatt explained that case managers change, "because the needs of the individual change."

"There are people who do pre-construction work. There are people who help with rebuilding," said Bova-Hiatt.

Bova-Hiatt also said she wasn't aware of families having to resubmit paperwork and added, "They might be submitting them for different reasons."

Bova-Hiatt stressed that a lot of these jobs have been complicated and added that she is proud of the state's progress, explaining the Long Island families still out of their homes represent a fraction, about 30 percent, of the people her office is helping to rebuild.

"Rebuilding takes time, and we don't just want to rebuild. The governor has given us a mandate to rebuild stronger and more resilient," said Bova-Hiatt.

While the new construction might be more resilient, these families told Eyewitness News the ongoing process of rebuilding and lifting their homes above flood levels to meet new FEMA standards is further testing their strength.

"Five years, it's been five years from hell," said Goldstone.

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Related Topics:
homesuperstorm sandydestroyed homesconstructionroad to recoveryNew York CityManhattan
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