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Following Storm, Mass Exodus Not Expected

Property owners willing to rebuild, not flee Long Beach, city officials say

A view of West Park Avenue in the West End the day after Hurricane Sandy rumbled into town. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
A view of West Park Avenue in the West End the day after Hurricane Sandy rumbled into town. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
Story by Jeff Lipton.

Long Beach residents and merchants seem to be willing to rebuild their homes and shops rather than flee the city a month after Hurricane Sandy struck, according to officials.

“People are not leaving in droves,” Scott Kemins, the city’s buildings commissioner, said last week. “And I don’t foresee that happening, a large influx of people leaving. They’re not running away.”

City officials are trying to provide residents and business owners with information on how to get the financial assistance they need to stay in Long Beach, since they have found that they are confused and lack knowledge on these matters.  

“Right now we’re trying to help people deal with the damage and give them information about the money they may be eligible for,” Kemins said. “All day long the phones are ringing off the hook, which is a good sign. Residents want to fix their homes and stay here because Long Beach is such a great community.”

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City officials have worked non-stop in an effort to help merchants and residents get back on their feet, said Kemins, who said he has lived at City Hall every day following the storm and continues work extended hours. “We will live through this and come back stronger than ever,” he said.

Local realtor Joe Sinnona urged Long Beach residents not to sell their properties in a panic because that could cause the price of area homes to drop $50,000 to $100,000.

“They should not panic-sell, which is the worst thing they could possibly do,” Sinnona said. “That could also affect the properties around them. We want to make sure the values stay pretty high in Long Beach, to keep it stable.”

Sinnona said the key is to try to maintain calm during a crisis and not to become panic-stricken.

“I lost a home, two cars and a business and I’ve been able to still maintain some sanity,” said Sinnona, who is staying with in-laws. “I’m trying to feed positive messages to people and provide them with a sense of uplift.”

Through social media such as Facebook, Sinnona has been able to get information to residents and business owners about the assistance available to them.

He has also been working closely with the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and Long Island business and real estate communities to supply information to those affected by the storm.

Sinnona said he has heard that some businesses want to leave the city and urged the chamber to meet with merchants about plans to assist them.

“They’ve got to help people,” said Sinnona. “The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce has got to step up. This is their moment to shine.”

However, Michael Kerr, chamber president, said his group was technically “defunct” because its offices were decimated by the storm.

“Our Long Beach office was wiped out completely,” Kerr said. “What would these people like the chamber to do? It’s not like we’re insensitive. The chamber’s officers are worried about their immediate needs, which are their families and their livelihoods.”

Kerr said his Fire Command business was heavily damaged and several chamber officers, who are volunteers, were heavy victims of the hurricane.

He said the chamber offices are full of mold and workers would have to strip the walls and rebuild, which could take up to two months. Despite the hardships the chamber has suffered, its officers have met with city and state officials to get a better handle on how they could help storm victims.

“Chamber officials continue to work [on behalf of the city’s merchants] as they hope to rebuild their own lives,” said Kerr, who noted that he has no figures on how many shopkeepers have left the city but at least half initially fled after the storm. “I don’t know how many have come back,” he added.

The chamber’s main focus now is to inform merchants what financial assistance is available to them. Many business owners are fighting with their insurance companies over “legitimate damage” to their shops, he said.

Some of the financial programs available are Federal Emergency Management Agency grants of up to $37,500 for those without flood insurance. The Small Business Administration has also offered loans to shopkeepers at an interest rate of a little over 4 percent.

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Roy Lester, school board president, said the schools have not noticed a large drop-off in attendance.

“The response, when we opened our schools, was phenomenal,” Lester said. “It was much better than we thought it would be.”

About 90 percent of the high school students showed up to class and no fewer than 70 percent at one of the elementary schools, he said.

“We were really happy because anytime there is a disaster you worry that people will desert the area,” he said. “And to see a response like that was kind of heartening. People were saying we would get only 50 percent [attendance].”

Many residents had left the city following the storm and the district bused students in from all over the place.

“It was amazing how many people were out of their homes and still managed to get their kids to school,” Lester said.

Beachguy December 04, 2012 at 10:14 PM
You mean new ones dont you? In NC all new homes are on pilings.should be same here.
Eddie December 04, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Leonard, many of these units have been legal for a century, and the City has collected taxes on them for a century. If they are "made illegal" as you suggest, who will reimburse the owners for this taking?
Beachguy December 04, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Sorry Michael Nomad . If you're in LB during the day take a drive down Nevada Ave and I'll give you a tour of my gutted house. You'll recognize it by the dumpster out front filled almost to the top with 11 years worth of stuff, sheetrock, flooring, old wet suits , hockey stuff, the worlds most comfortable couch etc, etc. Hope things move along for you and everyone else. And I'm lucky. I've only been at this for a week and a half Not 5 weeks like the rest of you. Just hope the city does something real fast so we make it through the winter unscathed.
Leonard Bauman December 04, 2012 at 11:47 PM
It is not a taking since anything below base flood elevation is considered inhabitable flood sacrificial zone.
Beachguy December 05, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Eddie-- have the owners of these illegal apartments been reporting the income and and paying taxes on it? Who has been paying the taxes for the services incurred by the tenants. Like schools , garbage, police, etc? The occupants take up parking places, use all the services etc. If I'm paying say$1,000 in taxes on my single family home and not getting any income, shouldn't the guy across the street who is getting income pay double the taxes? But he's not. He's paying $1,000 also but has twice the number of people using everything provided by the city. Now is the time for a clean sweep, a new beginning here. But, and it's a BIIIGG but, TILB. TILB.
Beachguy December 05, 2012 at 06:38 AM
Eddie- I'm talking about illegal rentals. and stricter rules on new dwellings. This place is just overpopulated
Eddie December 05, 2012 at 07:35 AM
Now wait a minute. Plenty of apartments below grade are legal, were constructed with the City's blessings, have been given Certificates of Occupancy from the City and have paid taxes for many years. If the code has changed, these apartments would be grandfathered as "non-conforming use" and still remain legal. You can't just take rights or property because the law has changed and not reimburse owners. Illegal apartments - and many are dangerously located in basements - that violate the code are another story and, as always, the codes must be enforced.
Eddie December 05, 2012 at 07:39 AM
At the risk of sounding crass, this storm has done what the Building Department has failed to accomplish in several decades. Probably hundreds of illegal apartments have been wiped out along with scores of Section 8 and Welfare rentals that degrade our community. It's unfortunate of course for the poor people who live in these caves, but, as you point out, in many ways the area will be a better one without many of the substandard and dangerous rentals.
Robin December 05, 2012 at 08:24 AM
This article is all over the place...home values, rebuilding, school attendance, COC, politicians--not sure where to begin. School attendance is high leading us to believe that the residents of LB will and want to rebuild. We should be proud of this. If anyone needs help, there are means out there right now. People are volunteering everywhere. Reach out please! People want to help! The COC President needs to go away. Is that a paying position? I know people that are looking for a job that can get the COC into the 21st century. Come on Kerr--have you heard the term World Wide Web! To think you are not able to help people today because you do not have bricks and mortar is just the most ridiculous excuse! Politicians: Calling all Long Beach politicians!!! Where are you? I have not seen one. I have gone to City Hall multiple times and they wont even come out to talk. LB government is a joke! They have no idea what they are doing; we need some real businessmen that know how to run a profitable business. I am scared--very scared. How will they handle getting money from fed gov't? Who is going to manage it? The guys they can't get our garbage picked up? Lastly, home values is a tough one. I am going with the expert--Joe Sinnona--on this one. I have to believe that if we rebuild our home value will someday go back up. Best of luck to all!
paul.d.spellman December 05, 2012 at 08:28 AM
Robin, "expert--Joe Sinnona" ha, thanks for the morning laugh.
The real bear December 05, 2012 at 08:37 AM
When are they going to start rebuilding the boardwalk and the beach
Tideline December 05, 2012 at 08:41 AM
I think that the City Council, while being well intentioned will not be able to get a fix in place, for a variety of reasons, before a series of Nor' Easters hits us and before the 2013 Hurricane season hits. I also do not expect to be jogging the full length of the Boardwalk, before Labor Day Weekend. Call me a pessimist, but quickly recognizing all problems, working together rapidly to bring about a long term cost effective solution, is not a strong suit in Government on ally level. High tide and Full Moon waits for no one. Home owner's should be thinking about right now immediately, keeping a large number of empty sand bags on hand, installing drainage systems in their basements, waterproofing their basements before laying their new floors (not wood or carpet, but natural stone), installing Wind Rated Garage doors and Garage door braces since that is the weakest point in the building and if close enough to the water pre-cut and labeled 5/8" plywood and the fasteners of your choice (Hurricane clips) in storage, a case of Silicone to seal plywood edges on lowest windows. Consider using Wonder Board for an unfinished basement or Yellow (Anti Microbial) board in place of Regular Sheetrock, when putting your Basement or Ground floor back together. If you have not yet replaced your water heater, consider a tankless unit that is mounted as high up on the wall as possible.
Pat Caltabiano December 05, 2012 at 09:39 AM
As i read all the comments from 'regular' people like me to the political viewpoints from whoever, I realize. Life is fragile. Such a delicate and beautiful place like the oasis we have all found Long Beach to be. A child of the 60s my parents bought LB for this was supposed to be a place of splendor by the sea. It has been for almost 40 years. But with fragility living by the Sea was always this doubt of the day the Ocean would be not only at our front door but inside. We have to rebuild. We have to dig our heels in, for the people who want to leave they probably would have anyway. I have the most resilient and loving neighbors who are my dearest friends. We have been invited to Michigan Street for our Own Xmas Tree Lighting. Like the Rockefeller Center tree once was bringing loved ones around the light. Long Beach needs to huddle around the light. Get support from insurance Fema or family and friends. Businesses need all the help they can get, the money is out there. We have to find it. One woman in the Knights of Columbus on Beech St. over a free hot meal said, what did the earlier settlers do? They invented, created, and worked hard. That's what we have to do. Our real estate will improve, our businesses will thrive, who cares if 7 11 comes we need you now more than ever. Be careful what you wish for... I wish for a sunny day and our neighbors rebuilding. Pat Caltabiano Michigan ST.
Earthling December 05, 2012 at 10:22 AM
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nowhere to go. I could not attend yesterday's council meeting. How was it? Any good news?
Beachguy December 05, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Re meeting see my post from last night . I'm pessimistic. Tideline thanks for that info. Very useful to a spazz like me. Michigan St Pat- you have a great attitude . Thanks . But the old timers didnt build houses on sandbars. Maybe fishing shacks . We don't belong here.
anonymous December 05, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Well said, Pat...well said!
Pat Caltabiano December 05, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Hi Beachguy I here ya, believe me I have many doubts and fears, but I will not let my parents investment, and hard earned dollars including my own go down the drain of Sandy. I am not sure what the right thing to do is except to rebuild. What can we do knock down and let some greedy builder get our land for nothing, fyi I am a realtor... they ain't happening. I bet you Long Beach people who are tried and true will get it done. Will see a good day again. We have to, or then what doe it all mean? Should all be condemned ? I think it will be a different Long Beach, but it could be better.
Beachguy December 05, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Pat -you have the right attitude. Thanks again. Just hope mother nature leaves us alone for awhile. Take a look at the beach. Not much in the way of a big swell . City Not doing anything
Tideline December 05, 2012 at 12:39 PM
It seems after leaving the meeting last night, attendees had a reality check and when they took into account the number of gov't agencies and bureaucracy involved in this, they realize no fix is immediately forth coming. Those grounded in reality with some finances that are able to take steps to protect their largest single investment would be well served to start doing so, immediately. While you can look at this situation and say Ocean and Bay/Channel issues, there is also the short term(bandaid) fix and the long term solution, the short term fix protects us immediately from further damage and no one seems to be addressing that. At the rate we are going, the Condo buildings on the South side of Broadway, will only be able to access their parking lots, at low tide.....
Beachguy December 05, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Tideline-- you're right on the mark. We need immediate steps to be taken NOW! Then a long term resolution. Someone with balls in City Hall needs to get every bulldozer available on the beach ASAP and even sooner and get sand piled up to prevent a recurrence. Then deal with the repercussions from all the BS agencies who want us to wait weeks and months for permission to do this stuff. Take a look at the beach . There's nothing there . This is a recipe for disaster. A storm can form in a matter of days and even a weak one can do immense damage under these conditions.
Eddie December 05, 2012 at 01:31 PM
. I wouldn't get too panicky. While the chance for a storm like the one we got always exists, it's usually a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Then the damage is mostly determined by your elevation, not by dunes, lack of dunes, beachfront topography, etc. But risk there is, and incompetence and bureaucracy abound in Long Beach government. The laws of nature aren't subservient to the laws of politics. Don't sell the farm yet.
Tideline December 05, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Beachguy, I just call it like I see it. f I were calling the shots, the temporary fix would already be well on the way to completion. A lot of time has already been wasted. Not much you can do about what City Hall and the Feds will do, or the delayed time frame that they will do it in. But, what you can control, is your immediate environment. I never panic, I recognize an issue and address the best possible fix to minimize the potential for damage to my property and the safety and comfort of my family.
Eddie December 05, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I agree completely, Tideline. We have little control over the corruption in Long Beach. But we can prepare, protect and repair what is our own. Those who were prepared for this storm did measurably better than those who were not. There will always be buyers and renters who want to live by the beach. Prepare for the worst and you will enjoy increased security and value.
Tideline December 05, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Eddie, that pretty much sums it up. I do not expect much to be done in the short term. That which I can control, is already done. Are you coming to the meeting I posted the ad for in the Around Town section ?
SurferBilly December 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Eddie, agree that the chances of another 'hundred year' storm occurring this winter may be remote, but the point is that it wouldnt take much of a storm at this point cause more damage. I was shocked on a walk over the weekend to see just how close to the boardwalk that a regular high tide was getting. Amazing how much beach is gone. So much for volleyball next summer!
Eddie December 05, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Not sure, Tide. It's far, but sounds interesting. We should meet up for coffee.
Tideline December 05, 2012 at 03:08 PM
If you can not make it, coffee works for me. I am not thinking about the damage from another Stormzilla, just your run of the mill Nor' Easter would cause major damage at this point. That is my concern.
Beachguy December 05, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Tideline-- what meeting? Where, when? Agenda?
Tideline December 05, 2012 at 06:39 PM
http://longbeach.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/60bc57f4-6b33-435a-82c9-064f4f43e80d I will be the one with the hat with the red circle and slash across it saying "stop LB corruption & Nepotism".
Beachguy December 06, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Sorry tideline but I'm at a nursery school level IT wise and can't find that . Where, when, agenda? Time for a third party in LB

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