Annmarie Connell just wants to get her 77-year-old father, Patrick, back to their Long Beach home in time for the holidays, after flooding during Hurricane Sandy one year ago rendered the ground-level apartment unlivable.
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Former Lido Beach residents, Connell, her twin 15-year-olds, and her parents moved into at two-family home she bought at 714-716 W. Beech St., between Grand Boulevard and New York Avenue, in June 2012, after her mother, Rosaleen, got sick the year before. Connell wanted her parents, former Manhattanites, to have their own separate place on the ground floor, but just before the closing her mother died. Connell had already installed a new lawn, walkway, fencing and decking, and had just started to build a new kitchen on the second floor when Sandy struck Oct. 29.
That day, her father evacuated to Manhattan to stay with his friends, while Connell remained at home with her twins. But just before the second high tide that afternoon, they evacuated to a friend’s house in Franklin Square.
“Everything looked fine from the outside,” Connell said about her home on her return next day. “But when we got inside everything was upside down.”
It turned out everything on the ground floor was essentially destroyed, including items that were kept in storage there while the upstairs underwent renovations. Her mother’s paintings of her native Ireland were also unsalvageable.
“That’s what really killed my father,” Connell said of the destroyed paintings.
While she gutted the ground floor to reduce the spread of mold, Connell had the second-floor kitchen completed so that she and children could live there. They returned in time to celebrate Christmas, but soon after she had to consider how she would rebuild.
Operating by federal guidelines, City of Long Beach inspectors deemed the home “substantially damaged,” which required that Connell either elevate the house or face a substantial increase in cost for mandated flood insurance.
Connell contemplated everything from reconstructing the existing home to demolishing it and rebuilding from scratch, possibly with a modular home. A completely rebuild home would cost her an estimated $500,000, an expense that didn’t include a new foundation.
“We couldn’t sell the home as it was because no one would buy it unless we fixed it,” Connell said about weighing her options.
Meanwhile, her insurance company, Fidelity, gave her a payout of $85,000, for damages to the ground floor only, on a $250,000 policy, and she is suing for full reimbursement. While the case is in appeals, she has applied for assistance through NY Rising, a state program that administers federal funds for storm-damaged properties.
Connell decided to reconstruct and elevate her existing home and borrowed money from her friends to help her pay for the $300,000 for those expenses. She rents a home with her twins around the corner on Grand, and her father remains with his friends in Manhattan.
The house was originally elevated on to 8-foot-6 columns, or cribbings, before it was lowered onto the slightly shorter, concrete foundation that employed helical piles due to the property’s sand-heavy soil. A direct-vent heating system will be built on the second floor and the central air condition unit on a platform outdoors on the same floor. The ground floor will consist of a two-car garage, a closet and stairs. Connell may build an elevator there to ease her father’s climb to his second-floor apartment.
Connell expects her home will be fully rebuilt and have her father living there in time for Christmas.
Throughout the ordeal, though, Connell said she’s remained positive, even though it was difficult at times.
“It’s been a big migraine but it’s not a nightmare,” she said. “Losing someone is a nightmare, and we are one of the lucky ones; many have not been so lucky.”