New York City is moving to demolish hundreds of homes in the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, after a grim assessment of the storm-ravaged coast revealed that many structures were so damaged they pose a danger to public safety and other buildings nearby.
About 200 homes will be bulldozed in the coming days, almost all of them one- and two-family houses on Staten Island, in Queens and Brooklyn. That is in addition to 200 houses that are already partially or completely burned down, washed away or otherwise damaged; those sites will also be cleared.
The Buildings Department is still inspecting nearly 500 other damaged structures, some of which could also be razed, according to the commissioner, Robert L. LiMandri.
Mr. LiMandri, in an interview late last week, said the city had not undertaken such a broad reshaping of its neighborhoods in decades.
“We’ve never had this scale before,” Mr. LiMandri said. “This is what New Yorkers have read about in many other places and have never seen, so it is definitely unprecedented. And by the same token, when you walk around in these communities, people are scared and worried, and we’re trying to make every effort to be up front and share with them what they need to do.”
No decisions have been made about rebuilding in the storm-battered areas — a complicated question that would involve not only homeowners, but also insurers and officials in the state, local and federal governments. Some of the houses that are being torn down were built more than a half-century ago as summer bungalows, then winterized and expanded. Current building codes would likely prohibit reconstruction of similar homes.
The Buildings Department expects to have a more precise assessment by early this week of how many buildings must be razed.
And then there is the emotional toll. Many of the homes set to be knocked down are in tight-knit working- and middle-class neighborhoods, where they are often handed down from generation to generation.