Michael Rubenstein / for NBC News
Such a wind down was completed on Staten Island, where more than 300 homeowners in the Oakwood Beach neighborhood were voluntarily
bought out by the state for a total of $123 million. That was part of a continuing effort after Sandy to return sections of the borough that consistently flood back to nature.
But buyout programs can also be met with opposition and raise questions about the property rights of individuals.
“These are very controversial,” said Timothy Hall, a senior scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “People don’t like to be told this, but those are the kinds of policies that would make the most sense to me. … You can look at giant flood walls, but they tend to be fantastically expensive, they can protect some areas, but not all areas.”
Joseph Lynch, 69, can’t fathom having to leave his home in south Brooklyn’s Gerritsen Beach, which was almost entirely inundated by tidal surge waters during Sandy. If another catastrophic storm were to strike, however, he would consider forsaking the home that his grandmother bought in the 1930s, he said.
“I was starting to feel a little hopeless after Sandy,” said Lynch, whose one-story home was decimated by 4 feet of water. With little time to get out, he said, he lost his cameras, bicycles and other keepsakes, and was barely able to rescue his cat, Jump.
“If this is going to happen again, where am I going to go? I can’t stay here anymore,” he said.
But he may find a solution similar to what’s happening in Broad Channel: His home has been selected as the first to benefit from
Project Uplift, a $9.3 million state program to elevate dwellings of low- and moderate-income homeowners.
nonprofit disaster recovery group that runs Friends of Rockaway, is administering the pilot phase that will help 28 homes in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Alana Tornello, the project’s program administrator, said raising homes is an essential way to protect people’s livelihoods for the foreseeable future.
“It’s so insensitive to think of asking 400,000 people, some of whom have helped to build New York City, to leave,” Tornello said. “I think it’s our commitment as New Yorkers to each other to do all that we can to protect communities that are essential to this city.”
With construction set to start on his home, Lynch found temporary housing at the local Roman Catholic church where he is also a custodian. By next spring, program officials say, his house will be higher — and safer.
“You think, Sandy is a one-in-a-century event, and by the time I go, it’s probably not going to happen again in my lifetime,” Lynch said. “But what about other people? I can’t just think about me. We all have to think about the future.”