City Demolishes First Staten Island Homes Damaged by Sandy
DONGAN HILLS — Nearly three months after Superstorm Sandy decimated parts of Staten Island, Raymond Weiler, 52, watched as the Dongan Hills home he grew up in was demolished by bulldozers in a mere 45 minutes.
“It’s really hard,” Weiler said about watching his mother's house come down.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was. It’s really hard seeing it come down. It was home.”
The house, which Weiler's mother owned for 54 years, was one of the first demolished by city construction crews after Sandy on Monday.
An estimated 300 homes citywide will be torn down because of damages due to the storm, starting in Staten Island, said Peter Spencer, spokesman for the mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery.
Aside from Weiler’s home on the corner Liberty and Quincy Avenues, the city also tore down homes on Kissam Avenue, in Oakwood, on Monday.
During Sandy, 13 homes were torn from their foundations on Kissam Avenue, and the tops of some landed in a field around the corner away near Guyon Avenue.
Residents did not have to pay for the city to demolish their homes, and the city's decision to demolish homes are not based on red tags given by the Department of Buildings — as some residents previously feared — but in consultation with the homeowners, Spencer said.
"For every building currently under deconstruction, we received explicit written consent from homeowners following an extensive consultation process," Spencer said. "There will be no out-of-pocket costs for this work, and we will assist every step of the way to ensure they have a plan for permanent housing."
The city will not demolish buildings without the consent of owners unless they are in imminent danger of collapse.
Though Weiler knew the home, which was inundated with 9 feet of water from the storm, would have to come down and couldn’t be rebuilt, he said it didn’t make it easier watching the bulldozers.
“We knew it had to come down,” he said. “It was damaged beyond repair, but it didn’t make it any easier watching it come down.”
He said the home served as a central hub for his whole family during any crisis or problems throughout the years.
“It was a safe place for everybody in my family,” he said. “No matter what happened. If the marriage went bad, it didn’t matter. That was the safe place.”
Weiler, who lives down the block on Liberty Avenue and also had significant damage, said they sent his 86-year-old mother to live in Texas with his sister so she didn’t have to deal with watching her home come down.
Neighbors watched as the home was taken down and comforted Weiler as the bulldozers worked. Some told Weiler that they missed seeing the home on the block already.
Weiler, who’s still waiting on insurance money to fix up his home, said that after things get sorted out his family will work on putting a new home on the land.
“We want to come back,” he said. “I want to rebuild.”