STATEN ISLAND (PIX11) — “Each day is a new day. You just got to pick up the next piece and continue,” Scott McGrath tells PIX 11 News six months after Superstorm Sandy slammed into his New Dorp Beach neighborhood, nearly destroying his home.
Each day, the McGraths have continued to pick up the pieces for six months straight. It was only a few weeks ago when Scott and Dee McGrath’s living room started to look like one.
“It took a while to get used to walls again,” said Dee as she sits on her new couch on her newly carpeted floor of her new living room. “Like when we walked into the door, I was so used to seeing the back of the house.”
Seeing through to the back of the house has been a common sight for many Sandy victims since their homes had to be gutted to get rid of the mold. As taxing as the physical aftermath has been, the emotional toll has hit them even harder.
“Everything you own, pulling it outside, putting it on the curb. So, you had this mountain of your life sitting at the curb, and you look down the street and every single house on the street had the same mountain on the curb. It was really, really depressing,” said Dee.
They both battled depression and anxiety attacks as they fought for FEMA money and insurance coverage. All while trying to find a safe place to sleep and warm food to eat for themselves and their furry family member. The McGraths estimate the cost to rebuild their home at nearly $150,000.
“For a while we were kind of hopeless. We didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Everywhere we turned, we hit a wall,” said Dee.
At one point, early on, Scott says, he hope after talking with President Obama when he toured the battered borough. While the Feds promised free-flowing funds, the city stepped up with a pilot program to help people.
“They had the Rapid Repair program that did help a lot of people get back their heat and electric,” admitted Scott.
While government has helped in some ways, many say, its failed in others. So much so, the aftermath has actually transformed some storm victims into community activists. In fact, exactly 3 months ago, Scott and Dee stood in a New Dorp Beach parking lot leading hundreds of others in a chant for change.
“They passed billions of dollars of aid but the victims of Sandy still haven’t seen it. There’s all this red tape. It is like that fundraiser they had, the concert, where is the money?” asked Scott.
That same day, three months ago, was a monumental moment for the McGraths because their home got a big upgrade.
“I finally got a toilet bowl and I was going to post on Facebook, I’m so excited I got a toilet,” Dee told me then.
Talk about the things you take for granted.
“If I didn’t know what it was like to live without a toilet, I would have thought I was crazy, but now I know. I could never imagine doing that again,” Dee said.
While they have a working bathroom now and furniture in their living room, there is still so much more to be done.
“We still have the raise our house but we don’t know how much we have to raise it,” said Scott as Dee added, “We’re in the new ‘V’ zone, for high velocity waves. So we have to be 15 feet above sea level.”
Right now, their home is 9 feet above sea level. Dee says they have to raise it another 6 feet. Their insurance company says it will give them a bigger break on their premium if they raise it an additional 2 feet.
“They say the average cost per foot is $10,000 so we’re looking at $80,000 just to raise the house to avoid those high insurance rates,” said Dee.
Scott calls their situation a Catch 22.
“If you don’t raise you’re going to pay $10-25,000 in flood insurance a year. If you raise, it is out of your pocket. We have a 401k plan for my retirement. I got 10 years left to work and I have to pull out of that to save my home,” said Scott.
Plus, part of their construction is at a standstill.
“I would really like to have a kitchen. I would love to be able to cook home-cooked meals but I’m not starting the kitchen with ceramic tile floor and then lift the house and have it all break apart. So, until I know about the elevation, our life is kind of on hold,” said Dee.
Still on hold, six months later. As long as this road to recovery has been and continues to be, the McGraths say they have hope for the future.
“A terrible of an experience as it was, its actually brought so many great people into our life,” said Dee.
The McGraths recently started their own non-profit Beacon of Hope New York, to benefit the children still struggling since Sandy.
The group is the New York chapter of the original organization that was created in New Orleans to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.