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No place like home — Sandy refugees plan to leave Ridge • Brooklyn Paper

No place like home — Sandy refugees plan to leave Ridge

Guests of a neighborhood: Sandy refugees (from left) Ginny O’Brien, Jeanette and Bob Israel, Tom Manzo, and Pat and Frank O’Brien all came to Bay Ridge from the flood-damaged Rockaways — but plan on going back.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Bay Ridge is great, but it ain’t the beach.

That’s what refugees from Sandy-shattered neighborhoods say about their adopted home, declaring their intentions to return to their storm-damaged homes as soon as possible — though they don’t know when that will be.

Ridge native Jane Farrell is one of many Breezy Point residents who came back to her old stomping grounds as floodwaters rose — but she and her husband Peter are still in love with their seaside lifestyle. The retired PS 102 teacher said she and Mr. Farrell adore Bay Ridge’s small businesses and close-knit community, but plan on returning to Breezy once they get the mold cleaned out of their house and the flooring replaced.

“We love all the restaurants and the stores here, and the people are just as friendly as they were before, but there’s something about sand between your toes,” said Farrell. “You can’t take Bay Ridge out of a person, but I’m much more acclimated at this point in my life to living near the beach.”

Still, Farrell said the rebuilding process that could take months, especially as she and her husband navigate the treacherous waters of private insurance and government assistance. But not even a rising tide of expenses or the threat of another superstorm will keep the couple from returning to Breezy Point.

“We’re hoping Sandy was an anomaly, and it’s not going to occur again in our lifetime,” said Farrell.

Jeannette and Bob Israel — who suffered similar damage to their Breezy Point home, and also found shelter in Bay Ridge — agree.

“I don’t think I’m going to live the two or three hundred years till something like that happens again,” said Mr. Israel.

The Israels — natives of Midwood — said they moved to Bay Ridge because of its abundant amenities, and were lucky enough to find a building with available apartments for their son’s family, their in-laws, and their friends, who all fled the flooded Rockaways.

“We were very grateful that we got a place that’s so convenient,” said Mrs. Israel. “We’ve been spoiled here going to so many nice restaurants and stores within walking distance.”

But the Israels said their entire circle will return to Breezy as soon as they are able, come hell or high flood-insurance rates.

“We decided a long time ago we liked living at the beach,” said Mrs. Israel. “The insurance and the repairs are part of our choice to live there.”

But not all the newcomers are eager to leave. Maria Vitt and her mother Elena came to Bay Ridge from devastated Midland Beach in Staten Island, drawn to the neighborhood’s lofty-sounding name.

“Literally, we chose Bay Ridge because of the ‘ridge,’ because it seemed higher and safer,” said Vitt, who grew up in Brighton Beach.

Vitt, a nurse at Coney Island hospital, said her lingering fears about mold and airborne diseases keep her from wanting to return to her water-ravaged home.

“There’s so many organisms that are thriving there right now, it’s pretty much unliveable,” said Vitt.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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