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Many Staten Islanders Stand Their Ground Amid Sandy Buyouts

By Nicholas Rizzi | March 13, 2013 8:49am | Updated on March 13, 2013 8:53am

NEW DORP BEACH — Not everyone is fleeing the Sandy-devastated neighborhoods of Staten Island.

As many take government buyouts for their destroyed homes, one group has started a push to show solidarity with owners who are staying put.

Beacon of Hope New York, a grassroots Sandy recovery group, is handing out lawn signs to let homeowners tell the city they’re staying put in their beach communities.

“Basically the signs are a message to say, 'We are staying. We are going to rejuvenate the community, and we are coming back stronger than ever,' ” said Stacey Sclafani, the treasurer and one of the founders of Beacon of Hope New York.

The group ordered the red signs, which read “We are Staying!!!,” last week and has begun to give them to residents who fill out a form on their website.

While some residents in the area are interested in a buyout for their homes, Sclafani said many others want to stay — either because the price offered isn't high enough or because they don’t want to abandon the neighborhood.

“Some people are stuck, some people just don’t want to go,” she said. “They’re very attached and they don’t want to go.”

For Linda Azzara, who inherited her Roma Avenue home when her father died, said that even though she only lived in New Dorp Beach for a month before Sandy left her property flooded, she doesn’t want to leave the neighborhood she has grown to love.

“We put [the sign] out there because we’re staying no matter what,” Azzara said. “I love being here. I’m not leaving.”

Azzara’s home was flooded with around 12 feet of water, destroying her basement and furniture, and leaving her family displaced for several months.

But she plans to stay because she doesn’t think another storm like Sandy will hit the neighborhood and she’s built a strong relationship with her neighbors since it hit.

“We are so close now,” she said. “I don’t want to ever leave. I feel like I’ve been here my whole life.”

Sclafani said the signs also let people know the homes are not abandoned.

Since the storm many have walked away from their homes. Others are in a state of limbo because they were either for sale or foreclosed before the storm, Sclafani said.

Some have not been gutted or had any mold remediation since the storm, and some leave neighboring residents in fear that they will topple down.

Beacon of Hope has cataloged 50 homes neighbors said were abandoned, and the group has worked on getting waivers from owners to gut some homes, Sclafani said.

She said some homeowners may want to rebuild, but can’t at the moment. The signs show that the homes have not been abandoned and will be rebuilt.

“To let people know that we're here, we're just wrapped up in the red tape and we can't get through,” she said. “I’m here, but I’m not physically here at the moment.”