Breezy Point still waiting on recovery funds, one year after Sandy

(CBS News) BREEZY POINT, N.Y. -- Sandy hit the northeast one year ago Tuesday.  It killed 147 people and caused $50 billion in damage. In Breezy Point, New York, 135 homes burned when sea water hit electrical wires. The question is how long will it take to rebuild there?

"It is still hard to believe what we went through," said Cathy O'Hanlon, whom we met on the concrete slab of what used to be her three-bedroom home.

Cathy O'Hanlon lost her Breezy Point, N.Y. home from Superstorm Sandy. A year later, she intends to rebuild despite battling the insurance companies. CBS News

"There is not one person back in their home from the burned area right now," she said.

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As for why she think it's taken so long for her to rebuild, O'Hanlon explained: "Well, the city has so many stipulations. And some of them are valid, but only now you're starting to see houses being built. It's a disgrace that we waited this long."

After the firestorm, no one could rebuild until FEMA released its new flood zone maps for the area. That took eight months. Now each homeowner will have to elevate their house -- some as high as six feet -- to qualify for flood insurance.

New York City received $648 million for housing recovery. But no one in Breezy Point has received any of that money. The city said it's still reviewing applications.

And like many residents, Cathy O'Hanlon is still battling with her insurance companies. Because her house was destroyed by fire after it flooded, her flood insurance company denied her claim.

"When they say help, there was none," she said. "There were a handful of people who did very well with their insurance companies. And God bless them. But only a handful."

Janice Gilmartin is one of those faring better. She was the first on her block to start rebuilding.

"We were one of the lucky ones in that we had enough insurance," she said. "So from the time we settled with the builder and they filed the plans it was only about three weeks."

Cathy O'Hanlon is still waiting on her approval. At 68, she is starting over.

"You know I paid my dues," she said. "We worked hard, we had everything paid. And now I am right back to square one."

But O'Hanlon said rebuilding is worth it. She will come back no matter what it takes to the community where she said she finds strength.

  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.