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Superstorm Recovery Slow, Difficult

  • Margaret Besheer

The view of storm damage over the Atlantic Coast in Seaside Heights, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, from a helicopter traveling behind the helicopter carrying President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The view of storm damage over the Atlantic Coast in Seaside Heights, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, from a helicopter traveling behind the helicopter carrying President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Cleanup and recovery from superstorm Sandy intensified Wednesday as New York City's buses and airports began to operate, the stock exchange reopened for trading, and curtains rose at Broadway theaters. Monday's storm ravaged the northeastern United States, killing dozens of people and causing billions of dollars in damage. Many people will still be feeling Sandy's effects for some time to come.

Along Van Brunt Street in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, the hum of generators can be heard as dozens of small business owners pump out the water Sandy's storm surge deposited in their waterfront buildings.

Related video report by Jerome Socolovsky

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John Hernandez, the owner of Bell Star Tower, a heating and air conditioning company, says the storm wiped out his ground floor office.

“All the computers, all the cabinets, all the files -- just washed away. We had five feet [about 1.5 meters] of water. See, this was the water line right here,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez points to the front door, where the waterline is above the doorknob. He says his five employees cannot make it in to help clean up or continue projects for customers because there is little public transportation. Hernandez says the damage and the inability to keep working has hit his small company hard.

“So no workers, no work, no income,” Hernandez said.

Across the street, Robert Lopez and his wife, Irene, opened Bomba Billiards 10 months ago. But after Sandy wreaked havoc on the small uninsured bar, they might have to close permanently.

“We're hoping that whatever federal government money is given to us, if any, will help us to get back into business. If not, I got no choice but to close because I don't have the necessary funds to get myself back up,” Lopez said.

A visibly heartbroken Lopez says it will take at least $50,000 to replace the machines, pool tables and liquor stocks that were destroyed by the wave of water that came through this area on Monday night.

“We put our life savings into this place and it's all gone. It's all gone,” Lopez said.

During a visit to hardest-hit New Jersey on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said of people like John Hernandez and Robert Lopez that the government would do all it can to help them recover.

“We are here for you. And we will not forget, we will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need until you've rebuilt,” Obama said.

New Yorkers had some good news on Wednesday. The governor announced that 14 of the city's 23 subway lines would resume some service on Thursday. Buses are already ferrying people around the city's five boroughs, and commuter rail systems are slowly coming back online.

But at the Lillian Wald housing project on Manhattan's Lower East Side, residents are still without power and water. Two sidewalk fire hydrants had been opened and residents are gathering water to use for drinking, cooking and flushing their toilets.

James and his friend, Louie, were among those collecting water, which they had to carry up several flights of stairs. James says things become frightening at night when the area goes dark.

“But it's real, real scary right now, real, real scary -- especially when it gets dark. You have people try to open doors on you,” James said.

Because of security issues, many area businesses are closed. Only a few delicatessens have reopened and only for a few hours. Owners say it is too dangerous to remain open after dark.

October 31 is Halloween in the United States. Traditionally, children wear scary costumes and go house-to-house asking for candy. In New Jersey, the governor said the holiday would be postponed until November 5 to allow time for streets to be cleared of debris and power lines, making it safer for children. In Manhattan, the famous Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was postponed, but many children were out because they say they refused to let Sandy ruin their fun.
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