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Some Sandy-Damaged Homes Must Be Demolished


In New York, the city is expected to begin demolishing some of the houses that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Inspectors have fanned out across the boroughs to places hard hit by the storm to decide which houses are safe to return to and which are not. Some of the most-damaged neighborhoods are along the coastal stretches of Staten Island. NPR's Jeff Brady began his story on the streets of the Midland Beach neighborhood.


JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: I'm just a few blocks in from the water and the streets here are lined with trash - flooded mattresses, cabinets, just about everything you could imagine has been pulled out of these houses and put out on the curb. Down the street, there's an orange front-end loader that's going down the street and just picking up huge scoops of this trash and putting it into a dump truck. On each of the houses, there's a sign taped to either the front door or the window and they all have colors: green, yellow or red.

JOANNA BELLINA: Green? What's the green tag?

PAUL BELLINA: Green's go, yellow is proceed with precaution and red, it's like the stop signals.

BRADY: That's Paul and Joanna Bellina. Their house has a yellow tag, and they've already cleaned up a lot of the trash that washed into the yard. Around the neighborhood, though, cars are sitting at odd angles, washed up on fences and in front yards. A few of the houses were completely lifted off their foundations. Others burned or were badly damaged. Joanna Bellina says despite the flooding and all the possessions she lost, she will be able to live in her house.

BELLINA: These houses are a hundred years old, foundation is solid as a rock. All cinder blocks, as you can see.

BRADY: Across the street, Alexander Colella has a red tag on his house. That means the city believes it was badly damaged and it's unsafe to be in, though that doesn't necessarily mean it will have to be torn down. Colella says inside there is a lot of damage.

ALEXANDER COLELLA: The whole first floor was wiped out. My crawl space was wiped out. It's about 15 feet of water came in.

BRADY: Does it look like it damaged the foundation or anything?

COLELLA: I don't know at this moment. It doesn't look that bad, the foundation, because it's on pilings and pilings are deep into the ground. So the foundation don't look bad.

BRADY: Colella hopes the city will tell him soon what his next step is. Meantime, he's trying to settle with his auto insurance company. His car was flooded and he needs money so he can go buy a replacement.


BRADY: Nearby, a small, fluffy, white dog is waiting in a car for Kathleen Desgro. There's a yellow tag on her house. Desgro says her son lives close to here, so she has a place to stay.

KATHLEEN DESGRO: But you come back all day waiting like for inspectors and whatever, you know. Even Thanksgiving I have to be here for an inspector from my insurance company.

BRADY: Desgro's eyes are bloodshot. She's tired. But she perks up when she talks about returning home.

DESGRO: I love this area. No, I'm coming back. I just wish things could move quicker, but there's so many people that it takes a long time, you know? I would like to be back there now, but...

BRADY: With no electricity that's difficult. And there's still plenty of work to be done before her home and many others in this neighborhood are ready to live in again.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Staten Island.


MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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