First—the good news: We have a number! We have a number! Our contractor has a license number! Well, in Nassau County. Next, he needs a Long Beach license. Then, we must obtain building permits. THEN WE CAN BUILD!
Second, I want to say that I know you care! You are reading this blog, and I can’t believe that so many people care enough to do so. Thank you for all your support and for everything you have done to help us and other people affected by this storm. Truly, thank you.
And now, for the plea on behalf of many of my friends and neighbors affected by the storm. I’m afraid I may have been painting too rosy a picture. Sure, many of us have been counting our blessings. I’ve been doing so publicly. But while you all seem to understand that this is far from over and far from OK for so many of us, many people do not. Most of us have heard from others how lucky we are. “Wow—so—you are getting a new house and insurance is paying for it?”
A new house, all paid for? No. This is not happening for anyone. In some instances, insurance is paying $22,000 for a complete first floor renovation. Contractors have gouged and abandoned us. Many of us have had to make repairs without receiving a dime from our insurance companies. All of us with mortgages are required to lay out tens of thousands of dollars—in many cases, up to or beyond $50,000, before the mortgage company (to whom we must sign over our insurance checks) will even release a third of our own money to us.
In our case, FEMA, whom we were assured would give us rental assistance, just informed us that we ourselves should be fully capable of paying our rent AND our mortgage, insurance bills, utility bills, required upgrades on our house, and anything insurance won’t cover—all while replacing our contents and paying for licenses and permits—after my husband lost his job to Sandy. Why are we asking for additional rental assistance? Because we haven’t been able to start construction. Why, one might ask, haven’t we been able to start construction?
Well—we had read many assurances that contractors licensed by any entity would be allowed to work on our homes. So when we heard through friends that a guy named Seth wanted to come down from New Hampshire to help us, we knew it would be no problem.
We could not get the water levels in our home under control and an electrician would not dare cross our threshold until we did. Both our electric and heat had to be up and running before rebuilding could start. This finally happened in the third week of December—at which time we were told that the City and County were now “back to business as usual!” No permit fees would be waived, and every contractor would now have to be licensed. But they would push this paperwork through, right? So people could get back in their homes? Right?
The people who were hardest-hit, or did not have the money to start right away, would now have to pay thousands of dollars in licensing and permit fees, and wait weeks and weeks—we waited months—before starting work. We had to fly Seth down twice to fill out paperwork at the County. The airline tickets alone cost us hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
An architect—licenses—permits—airline tickets—we are out almost $15,000 right there!
We paid thousands in cash to pump water and oil out of our house in those first few days. Not refundable, but what choice did we have? It was the Wild West down here. You grabbed anyone you could off the street; they charged what they could.
It will cost thousands to bring our house up to code—not covered by insurance, but required by the city. Nothing that was damaged outside is covered—the patio, the fence, and the garden we’ve been working on for years. Our outdoor area is small but will cost thousands to fix. Someone I know saved for years in order to spend $10,000 on her landscaping one year ago. That is gone. That is not lucky.
We—the folks who need to rebuild—are not lucky. Well, many of us are, in a lot of ways. We just wish people wouldn’t tell us we are. Let us say it, when we are feeling it. I am not lucky because my 1920’s house, chosen for its charm, has lost everything that made it charming. I am lucky that Seth is promising us—and will surely deliver—a “cream puff” of a house. I am not lucky that I had to lose over $20,000 worth of contents in the basement alone (I know because I documented every dollar as I was advised to do by FEMA—who didn’t give us a dime toward it, of course)! I am lucky that I have friends and family who have helped us replace so much of what we need. I could go on, but I won’t.
We are out about $80,000 that we don’t have and won’t get back—and we have been out of our home for four months and are looking at four months more. And we are in GREAT SHAPE compared to so many others! I just wanted to say on behalf of everyone going through this that we would really rather not be going through this. We definitely know it could be so much worse—and most of us are helping those who have it worse, with money, gifts, or physical assistance. We may be cheerful. We may be accepting. We may make jokes. But please spread the word: everything is not OK.
Remind them to check in on us. To not ask what we need—just notice, and give it. I am hearing so often that people are forgetting that this sucks. I apologize to my displaced friends if I am feeding into that a bit with by sharing my upbeat moods and inspired moments—perhaps not making clear how hard this is. It IS all relative. I AM fortunate. We ARE learning and growing. All these things are true, and wonderful—and I will pick up on those again in another blog entry! But I thought I owed it to my fellow Sandy sufferers to say it: we still need help. A lot of it. Please remind others to remember their friends and neighbors in any way they can. Refer them to this blog. Remind them that there are still volunteer programs and fundraisers.
They can even give directly. There is actually a link on this blog that says, “Help Sandy victims directly!” Please click on it, and spread the word by sending others the link to the site. I would like to see Helpin so successful that all my friends and neighbors are able to have a board on the site. But first we must get it going. Please let others know that they can directly buy and replace contents that were lost—for as little as $3 at Amazon.com!
Thank you for caring. I am truly so grateful (and still pretty darn happy). May it all come back to you!