Raymond Weiler’s childhood home was ravaged twice: first by Superstorm Sandy three months ago, and then by a city bulldozer on Monday.
Weiler hugged his sister as the machine tore into the house where their mother, Veronica Weiler, reared them and four other siblings in the Ocean Breeze section of Staten Island.
The tight-knit community, made up mostly of winterized bungalows just steps away from the beach, was the first of what will be many stops for city demolition crews finishing the work that Sandy started. The area was deluged with 12 to 14 feet of water during the Oct. 29 storm, and two people in the neighborhood died.
Weiler said his 86-year-old mother has temporarily relocated to Texas. He told her Sunday that her home of more than five decades was coming down. “She’s pretty broken up about it,” he said. “I’m glad she’s not here for it.”
“The house is not repairable, so we understand it does have to come down,” Weiler said. But that knowledge is cold comfort when he considers the memories built there. “It doesn’t hurt any less.”
He hopes to put a trailer home on the property so his mother can move back to the neighborhood. But so far, it’s not clear if the city will allow it.
A few steps away, the tiny home of 85-year-old James Rossi is also slated for demolition. Rossi was one of 23 Staten Island residents who died in the storm, more than half the citywide total of 43.
The houses aren’t the first razed in the 11 weeks since Sandy. A handful of property owners called in bulldozers on their own to remove shattered remains. But the first city-facilitated demolitions started Monday.
Other homes in the adjacent Midland Beach area are also on the top of the list to be demolished.
Homeowner Aiman Yusef said he was informed his house could be taken down as soon as Monday, but by mid-morning no wrecking crew was on site.
No city-facilitated demolitions have started in the storm-damaged areas of the Rockaways section of Queens or in Brooklyn, according to the mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, but they are expected there as well.
In the days after the storm, city Buildings Department inspectors visited the affected neighborhoods and identified buildings considered unsafe. Hundreds of homes in danger of collapse were recommended for demolition.
Homeowners have the chance to come up with a repair plan, but in many cases the buildings can’t be restored. They must sign written consents before the city will start demolition.
The city doesn’t charge property owners for storm-related demolitions.
Separately, two homes in the Oakwood Beach neighborhoods were also slated to be removed Monday by the Army Corps of Engineers. Those homes were swept into the salt marsh by the storm surge.
(Associated Press writer Joe Fredericks contributed to this report.)
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