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Rebuilding our Communities from Hurricane Sandy, 5 Years on... 

Having grown up in the City of Long Beach, NY with an office in the center of town and the majority of a large family in Long Beach and Island Park, Hurricane Sandy was a life impacting event. The towns were devastated. More so, with family, friends, business associates on the barrier islands there was not only concern with how to survive in the aftermath of the storm, but what it was all going to mean for the future of our great town. Now 5+ years later, the towns are on the mend. New homes are being built, existing homes are being elevated, and for most, life has gotten back on track. 

Its funny what a natural disaster can do to your perspective. In the days, weeks, months after the storm, I had visited hundreds of homes to assess the damage caused by wind, surging waters and in some occasions, violent wave action. It was not uncommon to walk into a storm damaged home and know that in the end, the most cost-effective way to approach this project, was to tear it down and start over. But who wants to be the guy to tell a family that their home is beyond saving. On many occasions, I tried to soften the blow. Racking my brain to come up with an out of the box solution to try and make a terrible situation better. Too many times I did this, wasting too many valuable hours. Hours that could have been spent helping people. After a while, most responsible professionals came to realize that out of the box solutions to try and salvage something that has lost its integrity is a shortsighted approach. It was time to build better and stronger. 

With that, along came NY Rising. My office received non-stop phone calls from homeowners that were either in the program or interested in the program. Looking back, this was an exciting time. With a cynical eye, we began educating ourselves about what NY Rising was offering. After all, too many people had checks for tens of thousands of dollars issued to them but were not being told what they could use it for. Well, it took about 6 months of phone calls, seminars, after hours meetings, and what seems like about a few thousand e-mails, to finally get to the point of “expert”. Even still, so many potential clients were turned away for fear of not being able to meet deadlines. Deadlines, that ultimately became extended. My cynical side had lost, and we began to realize that the program really was going to make a difference for so many impacted by the storm. Yes, there would be some headaches, some frustration, some administrative hurdles to overcome but in the end, it was worth it. 

I am proud of the way that my office has navigated NY Rising. Both Jennifer Watts, the Project Manager for GWB Architect P.C., and myself approached “Sandy” related projects with a different mindset. We never looked at these projects as an opportunity for some quick government funded fees. We looked at them as an opportunity to assist local families get back on track and stay there. I cannot think of a single NY Rising project that GWB Architect worked on in which we did not take on a significant amount of work beyond what was required and without the need for an increased budget. 

Much has been accomplished and the work continues. The landscape of our town has been changed. Most, but not all, agree that it is for the best. Yes, some charm has been sacrificed, homes and even businesses are taller, some projects area obtrusive, and almost all are more expensive. But they are certainly stronger and built to withstand the next “big one”. Hopefully, in our lifetime, we will not need to find out how well these new FEMA compliant home perform. But I think it is fair to say that we can no longer assume that the “big one” is not going to happen. But if it does……We will be ready.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images