5 years after Superstorm Sandy, progress and delays

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Superstorm Sandy tore through the New York region five years ago. It was a storm unlike any other we had seen before. Life was never the same for many tristate residents after October 29, 2012. 

The monster storm caused unprecedented storm surge and record flooding. Dozens of people died. Thousands lost their homes. Countless prized possessions were gone forever. Sandy left a path of destruction from Long Island to the Jersey Shore and across all five boroughs.

In the aftermath of the storm, unthinkable, tragic images were etched into our minds: The Seaside Heights roller coaster floating in the Atlantic Ocean; the remains of Breezy Point, Queens, where fires destroyed hundreds of homes; long lines of people waiting for gas; and families desperate for help being rescued from their rooftops.

Then there was the damage. Sandy was one of the most expensive natural disasters in history, with an unimaginable price tag. New Jersey reported $36.8 billion in damage; New York $32.8 billion.

In the days and weeks after the storm, homeowners began the daunting task of assessing their options, cleaning out their homes, and eventually, rebuilding. Many of these projects would take months even years.

FEMA said it has paid out $13.5 billion in public assistance funds in New York and nearly $2 billion in New Jersey. 

The superstorm also made a mess of our transit system, crippling travel for days. The city's subway system sustained more than $4.5 billion in damage. Millions of gallons of saltwater flooded nine of the 14 tunnels, causing severe damage to walls, tracks and communication cables.

Five years after the storm, progress has been made but still more work needs to be done to protect us from future storms.

In New Jersey, officials are moving forward with hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term projects. The Department of Environmental Protection is working with local officials to design a proposal for a federally funded system of flood walls along the Hudson River to protect Hoboken and other municipalities from storm surge. In Ocean County, the U.S. Army corps of engineers has awarded a $128 million contract for beach replenishment that includes 22-foot high dunes.

Various projects are underway in New York City, including a $58 million dune system in Breezy Point. Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of coastal resiliency projects are scheduled for Lower Manhattan. The city completed a $28 million project in Brooklyn to reduce the risk of coastal storms. Construction has begun on a $22 million project in Staten Island to reduce flooding. 

Con Edison has spent $1 billion on projects, including the installation of equipment that can withstand flooding.

The City Council in early October voted to create a committee to study the city's recovery from Sandy. The 15-person recovery task force will evaluate the city's efforts to rebuild and write a report within a year with recommendations on how to make it better in the future.

Though five years have passed, the pain is still fresh. Homes have been rebuilt, boardwalks redone, and a new roller coaster now stands in Seaside Heights.

Five years ago, lives were forever changed. But our strength, resiliency, and spirit were not broken.