Post-storm struggles continue

A year and a half after Hurricane Sandy, Five Town residents are still trying to rebuild


Patty Vacchio lost her Inwood home in Hurricane Sandy. While some things have improved, she said, she doesn’t believe that people in her situation are any better off nearly 18 months after the storm.

“There’s still a problem with water coming back up into the streets, depending on where you live,” Vacchio said. “I live two blocks from a drain, and still get a lot of water filling up into the crawl space.”

Vacchio has applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and private insurance companies for help with rebuilding, but it has been a struggle, she said. “I’ve had to go through so many loopholes and red tape — nothing but complications,” she said. “I’m extremely frustrated. The main reason for the delay in reimbursement is because of all the red tape. I don’t understand why. I don’t think anyone is trying to scam them. Nobody wants to be out of their homes. It’s not about making money. People just want to get on with their lives and make a home again.”

Vacchio has taken out a Small Business Administration loan, but it doesn’t cover all the damage. “I still need to finish some electric issues, some walls, and put up sheetrock,” she said, declining to say how much she borrowed. “They send payment out in increments. I’m waiting for my next payment to finish things.”

Frank Zerbe’s Meadowmere Park home was damaged in both Tropical Storm Irene, in August 2011, and Sandy. To complicate matters, Zerbe is bedridden after breaking his hip, and is also recovering from stage III colon cancer. “After Irene, I had some home damage, so I applied to FEMA,” he said. “They electronically deposited $223 into my bank account without notifying me. When FEMA denied help after Hurricane Sandy, we appealed the decision. After a flood inspection done on the whole house, they came back again, saying they already gave me $223 and that’s all I’d get.”

Zerbe had minimal damage from Irene, but Sandy flooded his house, he said. “I had water up to about 54 inches in the kitchen,” he said. “I lost my bulkhead. I’ve maxed out credit cards and taken out high-interest loans to do repairs. My family did all the work. I’ve lived here almost 50 years. Up until Sandy, I’d never had water in my home, ever.”

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