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New York Marks Second Anniversary Of Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- On the second anniversary of the day Superstorm Sandy devastated New York, many residents are still recovering -- and waiting for funding.

The October 2012 storm devastated the oceanfront coastline and caused catastrophic flooding in the state. The storm was blamed for at least 182 deaths and $65 billion in damage in the U.S.

MORE: Superstorm Sandy: Two Years Later | Photo Galleries

Flags on New York state government buildings flew at half-staff Wednesday to mark the anniversary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the flag lowering to honor the 61 men and women who lost their lives to the storm in New York.

"Two years ago, New York state was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in a generation," Cuomo said. "As we mark the second anniversary of this horrific storm, let us pause to remember those who were lost, as well as the countless others who were impacted by Sandy."

There are some concrete signs of tougher protections now, including a Long Island boardwalk rebuilt to serve as a retaining wall. New York Rising, the crisis agency created to dole out money to 15,000 Long Island applicants, said 90 percent have received checks.

PHOTOS: Superstorm Sandy -- Two Years Later

New floodgates now protect a power plant where Sandy plunged miles of Manhattan into darkness and some homes sit higher while other buildings boast new flood barriers.

Enhanced preparedness has hardened backup power systems at hospitals, forged new systems to flood-proof subway vents, installed generators at dozens of gas stations to run pumps in a power outage, redrawn evacuation-zone maps and reshaped emergency plans for managing problems from debris to traffic.

But many planned projects are still years off and some ideas still under study. Thousands of homeowners await repair aid, some of it coupled with steps to make homes safer. Some efforts to buy out flood-prone homes haven't gotten takers in the worst-hit areas. And across the coast, a patchwork of protections leaves some areas more vulnerable than others.

New York Marks Second Anniversary Of Superstorm Sandy

On Coney Island, there are signs of progress, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

Margurie Batts' home is being rebuilt after Sandy destroyed the first floor.

"Habitat came in and they are making progress, and I'm grateful," Batts said.

But Batts said getting everything fixed has not been an easy task.

"Ridiculous," she said. "I've been with Build It Back; I've been with this one and that one and that one. And everybody promises and 'bring this paper' and 'do this' and 'do that,' and they didn't get to it."

CBS2 was told Batts did not qualify for the city's Build It Back Sandy program. A friend referred her to Habitat for Humanity. The organization started work on her home about 60 days ago.

"We're doing painting and taping and sheetrocking, some flooring, some landscaping in the rear yard," said Michael Gilliard of Habitat for Humanity.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, his wife Chirlane McCray, and other elected officials stopped by Batts' home Wednesday morning to lend a hand.

Build It Back started working with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity after the repairs began on Batts' home. It's all part of de Blasio's overhaul of the program, which until this year, did not give out any checks.

"What happened in the first year was not acceptable," the mayor said. "They are speeding up the pace constantly in terms of the construction starts and the reimbursements."

The program director said 20,000 people applied for Build It Back funding. So far, construction has started on more than 750 homes, and more than 1,000 checks have gone out with 500 more expected to be sent out this year.

New York Marks Second Anniversary Of Superstorm Sandy

In Breezy Point, Queens, Cathy Brennan just got back into her home. So far, only 30 people have rebuilt and moved back after 130 homes burned to the ground when a fire broke out during Sandy.

"The city's Build It Back program has not been nearly as fast as we'd like it to be," said A.J. Smith, of Breezy Point.

Breezy Point resident Suzanne Corbet told 1010 WINS' Holli Haerr the two year anniversary of the storm was a somber day for her.

"Bitter sweet in a way; we're home but a lot of our neighbors aren't, and until everyone is back I don't think Breezy Point will be the same," Corbet said.

She and others said Breezy Point is on its way back to being what it once was.

"It is hopeful and it is inspiring to see all this new construction," she said.

In another part of Queens, the Rockaways, many complain the cleanup is in slow motion, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.

A prime example, residents say, is the rebuilding of the boardwalk.

"This is all that's done. It's two years, I know there's money there. Everyone knows there's money, but I don't know where it's going," said Rockaways resident William Burns.

The boardwalk is supposed to be completed by 2017, but segments will open as they are finished, CBS2 reported.

And then there's the home rebuilding. Ed Phillips has been waiting for the city's Build it Back program, but said he's been through the wringer.

"A lot of red tape, a lot of lost paperwork. If it's not in email or in writing, there's no accountability," he said.

Despite the mayor's progress with Build it Back, many said it's not nearly enough, Brennan reported.

"I commend Build it Back for taking tiny steps, but they are just small steps," Phillip Goldfeder said.

Phillips' house is now one of the 750 that have begun construction this year until de Blasio's revised Build it Back program. In the meantime he and his family live elsewhere, like so many others.

"Get back up. Dust yourself off and fight back. (Fight back?) Absolutely. Every time you get knocked down, fight back," Phillips said.

Cuomo Visits Staten Island On Sandy Anniversary

On Staten Island, Cuomo spoke Wednesday in the Oakwood Beach section of the borough, where a bungalow is being demolished, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

He said all the homes on the block will be razed so that the land can be returned to nature.

"We're buying out hundreds and hundreds of homes," Cuomo said. "Why would you do that? ... Because we learned an important lesson. We learned that Mother Nature still wins."

Homeowners were given incentives to relocate within the five boroughs.

Signs on Ocean Breeze, Staten Island home following Sandy
Signs on Ocean Breeze, Staten Island home nearly 18 months after superstorm Sandy hit, April 17, 2014. (credit: Peter Haskell/WCBS 880)

The Dungin family is one of the families whose home was bought by the government, Brennan reported.

"It was our first house and we lost it to Sandy," Marge Dungin said.

Borough President Jim Oddo said many storm victims on Staten Island were victimized again by the slow rebuilding process and there is still a long way to go.

And City Councilman Vincent Ignizio agreed, adding that now people suffer at the hands of bureaucracy.

"Government reacts too slowly in a crisis, particularly when they are trying to react comprehensively. Not everyone fits in a box," Ignizio said.

In New Dorp, Staten Island, where President Barack Obama comforted residents in the days after the storm, there are still vacant lots and plywood-covered doors. Some people have rebuilt, but others like Lorraine Gonzalez knocked her own home down because insurance fell short.

"They offer you money, but it's not enough," she told WCBS 880's Sean Adams. "They didn't pay out on the policy."

New York, New Jersey Mark Second Anniversary Of Superstorm Sandy

Aiman Youssef's house on Staten Island shifted and collapsed during Sandy, but he told 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria he was so grateful to be alive that he put up a tent to help his neighbors who seemed to be worse off.

His home still hasn't been rebuilt, but the tent still stands in its place on Midland Avenue, where he continues to distribute donated food.

"People need to eat every day and people are not getting help from the government or the city. They built zero homes in my community," he said.

But about a mile away in South Beach, Mayor de Blasio held a news conference on the boardwalk to reiterate his Build it Back Sandy program has helped more than 700 construction projects get started, D'Auria reported.

New York Marks Second Anniversary Of Superstorm Sandy

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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