NEW YORK CITY — In an unprecedented move for New York City, the city is preparing to raze hundreds of homes deemed unsafe following Hurricane Sandy.
Officials confirmed Sunday that the city will take a direct hand in demolishing 200 homes in some of the worst hit coastal areas of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
The city has reportedly targeted Queens homes in Breezy Point, Belle Harbor and Rockaway Beach, as well as Staten Island's Midland Beach, South Beach, and Fox Beach, and Brooklyn's Gerritsen Beach for the compulsory demolition, and says it is investigating 500 more damaged homes that may also be razed.
In total, 891 homes have been issued red placards from the Department of Buildings, deeming them unsafe to enter, according to the NY Times, of 80,000 inspections that have been conducted as part of the city's rapid assessment process. The vast majority demolished will be one- and two-family homes, the paper reported.
Additionally, several dozen homes have received notices in the alarming form of DOB violations — some for for "failure to maintain" a structure — as members of the Breezy Point Cooperative did, where many seaside bungalows were left in pieces after the hurricane.
Though a DOB spokesman insisted Saturday that the violations were not indicative of any monetary penalties against the homeowners, it was unclear if that was an initial step in tagging homes that will be demolished. The department admitted that notifying homeowners of slated demolitions was one of their greatest challenges.
DOB workers have been canvassing neighborhoods trying to reach owners through relatives and neighbors, but the DOB does plan to issue emergency declarations to bulldoze dangerous homes even if owners cannot be reached, the Times reported.
“This is not easy, in this case, because of all these displaced people, but we’re going to do the best we can, but we may have to move on it if we can’t find them,” Commissioner Robert L. LiMandri told the newspaper.
Breezy Point, where scores of homes burned down in addition to mass structural damage caused by flooding there, may see some of the most tear-downs, a possibility that has drawn mixed reactions from residents.
Meaghan Wentland, 31, who lives in a Bedford Ave. home with her boyfriend Julian McKinley, 27, and their son, said her home was flooded out and sustained exterior damage, but she didn't think it faced demolition.
For those that are, she said, Breezy Point Cooperative, which runs the neighborhood, would be able to reach people, since it had phone numbers going back generations, and that the Department of Buildings should be able to reach everyone whose home the city plans to demolish.
"This is not like other parts of the city where you step off your porch and you're on city property," said Wentland. "If it did happen, there would be uproar, but I just think most or all people would be notified in time."
Over in Belle Harbor, one resident said there was no excuse for the city not to notify someone if they were going to destroy the house.
"If the house poses a danger, it needs to be torn down to protect the innocent people around it, I get that," said Daniel Murphy, 53, a physician whose house was mostly spared. "But even if it's a matter of days, I don't see how they can overlook that."
Murphy, a 22-year resident of Beach 230th Street, added that he didn't expect many enforced demolitions in Belle Harbor.