FAR ROCKAWAY, Queens (PIX11) — Less than a month before Superstorm Sandy hit New York City, Maria Argiro and her husband were house hunting when they fell in love with a fixer-upper in the Rockaways.
The couple closed on the home on Oct. 1, 2012, just a few weeks before Sandy clobbered the neighborhood. Unable to get to the house for about a week, a friend in the neighborhood told Argiro the water in the basement of her new home had almost reached the ceiling.
But it was even worse when they saw the devastation for themselves.
“It looked like a war zone,” Argiro said. “I was definitely discouraged and thought maybe we turn around and sell it.”
Argiro said they had plans to gut the home and do a complete renovation anyway, so the storm didn’t deter them from settling in the area. They moved into the home a year later and haven’t looked back.
Neither have the residents who stayed to rebuild or those who invested in properties in the Rockaways and Breezy Point areas. Right after Sandy hit, the homes totaled by the storm were selling for about $500,000 cash, according to realtor Robin Shapiro. Now, those renovated houses have doubled in value, she said.
“Homes that had no boilers or electric were all redone and are now worth about $1 million,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro and her family were among the residents in the Rockaways and Breezy Point that chose not to evacuate the area when Sandy hit. The realtor remembers standing on the terrace of her Beach Street home, watching the water and feeling the blustering winds.
“I wasn’t scared of the water but was scared the wind would break through the windows,” she said. “The beach after Sandy was so clean, it looked like it had snowed.”
A decade later, the community is still gripped by the storm and its aftermath. Weather warnings unnerve residents, who were recently awakened by a tornado alert at 4 a.m., Argiro said. Within minutes, neighbors were clamoring via text messaging to get the latest updates.
“Anytime a storm is coming, it’s the talk of the town. The nerves are real,” she said.
The residents in these tight-knit communities have always looked out for one another, even before Sandy when people would let their neighbors park in their driveways. After the storm, Shapiro’s son used his food truck to feed folks and a therapist provided massages at a tent where locals would convene to vent their stress.
That bond runs even deeper, 10 years after Sandy.
“Now it’s even tighter when you go through something like that,” Shapiro said. “The neighborhood was always tight, but it got tighter after Sandy.”
“There’s still that camaraderie and looking out for each other,” Argiro added.