One year later, Superstorm Sandy survivors rebuild their lives
Streets flooded. Tree trunks ripped from the ground. Power lines drooped low into neighborhoods. Walls blew away. Once prime beachfront real estates transformed into pieces. Town and city public transportation halted. Small businesses destroyed. Thousands of flights canceled. Hotel rooms turned into temporary homes. And miles of cars queued up for hours-long waits to fill up with what became the most precious commodity—gasoline.
This was the scene in New Jersey and the metropolitan New York region one year ago after Superstorm Sandy first made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012. The late-season hurricane that moved up the East Coast hit 24 states and cost the country at least $50 billion in damages. Nearly 150 deaths were recorded and more than 650,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
Photographer Sasha Bezzubov documented Sandy’s survivors and the aftermath of its devastation.
Residents and business owners continue to sort out their lives as they work to recreate their communities a year after Sandy first landed near Brigantine, N.J. About 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and every school was closed in New Jersey alone, according to the governor’s office.
Congress approved a $50.7 billion recovery package for states affected by the storm in January, but debate on both sides of the political spectrum initially stalled the release of federal aid for months. Communities received immediate aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration, but the first round of Community Development Block Grants weren’t released by the government until May. About $17 billion in disaster relief funds was set aside for victims, too.
New Jersey’s famed Seaside Heights boardwalk was one of the areas hit hardest by the storm. The state’s popular tourist destination opened in time for Memorial Day after months of construction, but last month a fire destroyed the nearby FunTown Amusement Pier, a state landmark that never fully recovered from Sandy-related damages.
In New York, the Statue of Liberty greeted guests again in July after closing last October from water damages. The nearby Ellis Island required more repairs, but reopened to the public on Monday. Damage to the city’s subway system was severe and repairs remain underway. The city spent more than $1.5 million in Sandy response and recovery work, including reopening schools, hospitals, and public housing, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office. Almost 580 homes were either destroyed or demolished.
“After a successful summer beach season, we are now working with the Rockaway community to rebuild the beach’s iconic boardwalk–with a design that will provide protection, transportation, and recreation. The end result will be a beach that is stronger, more resilient, and more attractive than ever before,” Veronica White, commissioner for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, said in a statement.
Bloomberg in June proposed a $20 billion long-term plan to protect the area from extreme weather brought on by climate change. Last year the United States experienced the warmest year on record, and temperatures reached unprecedented levels worldwide.
The aftermath of Sandy brought needed attention to natural disasters as people now begin to consider the impact of climate change and sustainability into their practical decisions, said John Oppermann, deputy director of Earth Day New York.
“It’s scary, but it’s also kind of heartening that people did actually take [sustainability] into account,” he told msnbc. “[The hurricane] was so impactful to people.”