One year later, Superstorm Sandy survivors rebuild their lives

  • Vision Beach, Seaside Heights, NJ. Superstorm Sandy was a late-season hurricane that originated in the Caribbean Sea and eventually grew considerably in size while over the Bahamas. Twenty-four states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin.
  • (L) Ortley Beach, section of Toms River and (R) Richard Fitzpatrick, rebuilt his house with the insurance money thought he hasn’t received any assistance from town or state. The hurricane was the second-costliest cyclone to hit the United States since 1900 at an estimated $65 billion in damages.
  • Sand piled by the newly built boardwalk, Far Rockaway, NY. The storm mostly affected land areas in New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York—especially in and around New York City and caused water levels to rise along the entire East Coast, from Florida to Maine.
  • Belle Harbor, the Rockaways, NY. Approximately 650,000 homes were damaged or destroyed throughout the region.
  • Ortley Beach, NJ. In New Jersey alone, some 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
  • Vision Beach, Seaside Heights, NJ. In New Jersey more than 116,000 people were evacuated from their homes and 127 shelters were opened to accomodate the displaced.
  • Ortley Beach, NJ. Nearly 5,000 New Jersey households were relocated temporarily to hotels and motels.
  • Vision Beach, Seaside Heights, NJ. Every single school in the state of New Jersey was closed because of the storm, while six were severely damaged.
  • Ortley Beach, NJ. Sandy’s destruction caused $36.9 billion in New Jersey. Between October 2012 and March 2013, nearly $3 billion in immediate aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) was administered.
  •  Lavalette, Seaside Heights, NJ. Rebuilding along the New Jersey coast.
  • Ortley Beach, NJ. More than 1 million pounds of food were distributed across New Jersey in the days following Sandy’s destruction.
  • Seaside Heights, NJ. About 75% of small businesses were impacted in New Jersey.
  • Lavalette, Seaside Heights, NJ. The House passed a $50.7 billion Sandy recovery aid package earlier this year by a vote of 241 to 180.
  • Belle Harbor, the Rockaways, NY. More than 23,000 people sought refuge in temporary shelters because of the storm.
  • Ortley Beach, NJ. Nearly 600 roads were closed in New Jersey.
  • (L) Far Rockaway, NY. (R) Loretta Wilson, she and her family are 30k in debt as they’re waiting for the state funding to come through as they struggle to rebuild their lives.
  • Union Beach, NJ. More than 8.5 million customers lost power throughout the region.
  • Ortley Beach, NJ. The federal government provided more than 500 generators to critical infrastructure sites and fuel stations to assist in operation until power was restored.
  • Union Beach, NJ. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drained 150 million gallons of water—or 227 Olympic-sized swimming pools—from the New York City metro area.
  • Montolocking, NJ. Electricity was restored to almost 90% of New Jersey within nine days of the storm’s landfall.
  • The Rockaways, NY. In the time between Hurricane Sandy and Memorial Day weekend, more than 500,000 person-hours were invested repairing and restoring New York City’s beaches. The Parks Department is currently working with the local community in Rockaway Beach to design an elevated, concrete boardwalk with integrated concrete and steel “baffle” walls, and a raised, planted berm.
  • The Rockaways, NY. People gather to commemorate the one-year anniversary.



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.”

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