Few communities were hit harder by Hurricane Sandy than Long Beach, New York. Overnight, residents and local business owners saw their lives and livelihoods literally washed away. Many have wondered, and may still be wondering, if Long Beach will ever recover. But those still wondering are forgetting an important fact: few communities are as spirited and strong as Long Beach and, after spending countless hours in Long Beach, helping friends and family in the wake of Sandy, there is no question in this author's mind that Long Beach will be back stronger than ever, and sooner than most would expect.
Long Beach will be back, not because it was bailed out by the State or Federal government or because of massive fund raising efforts by charities, but because Long Beach residents love the place they live like few others, and won't rest until it has been restored to its former glory.
To get a better sense of the determination of Long Beach residents, we spoke with Dave Juan, long-time Long Beach resident and co-owner of UnSound Surf Shop on Park Avenue. When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Beach's shores on October 29th, it not only completely flooded UnSound Surf Shop, it also pounded the Juans' Long Beach home so hard that its foundation was breached and basement flooded to the top.
In the days and weeks following Sandy, Dave and his wife, Ashley, spent countless hours dealing with insurance adjusters and FEMA, just to be told that, for the most part, they were out of luck. After exploiting every loop-hole imaginable, in the end the insurance companies paid-out only a small fraction of the cost of damages the Juans were forced to endure. Facing the loss of a home and half of a business (Dave also co-owns a Quicksilver surf shop in neighboring Oceanside), many would have given up hope and looked to move and start over. Not the Juans.
Over the last four months, the Juans have rebuilt UnSound, and most of their home, with little more than the help of friends, neighbors and a few understanding and trusted contractors. Although they have been displaced from their home since late October, they are optimistic about their future in what has proved to be a united and proud community.
"Sandy was a total life-changer for me and pretty much everyone in Long Beach," said Dave Juan. "After all those years of taking our money, the insurance companies all of a sudden didn't want to know us. But the support we got from our friends in Long Beach and the international surfing community was amazing. UnSound is just about ready to re-open and our house is finally getting fixed thanks to a lot of generosity and, basically, volunteer hard labor! We plan to make UnSound better than ever and we will never leave Long Beach."
Long Beach has already come a long way in the four months since Sandy. Many stores and restaurants, especially in the east end, have reopened and are ready for the prime spring/summer season. In February the local "Polar Bears" descended on Long Beach for the annual Super Bowl Splash. And work is well underway to resurrect Long Beach's famed boardwalk, which residents sadly watched demolished earlier this winter. The City has set an aggressive time-table for completing the new boardwalk by Memorial Day, 2013. Based on the plans, the new boardwalk promises to be better than ever, and, like the City it has come to symbolize, able to withstand whatever mother nature may throw its way.
Although the scars left by Hurricane Sandy will be slow to heal, my guess is that come May, the summer vibe that has always enveloped Long Beach will be back in full force, and locals and visitors alike will flock to Long Beach in droves in search of the happiness that only a day at the beach can bring; especially after a long and trying winter that none will soon forget.