Six years after Sandy, Wading River home will be made safe

The night Superstorm Sandy hit Long Island in October 2012, Jim and Peggy LoScalzo watched the storm that left much of the South Shore flooded and damaged and thousands without power move across Long Island Sound.

The sky became very still as the storm passed over them. All of a sudden, they saw water rushing towards them and ran for cover deeper in their house that sits on the end of Creek Road in Wading River.

“I said to Jim, ‘Doesn’t it look like the Sound is growing?’ ” Ms. LoScalzo said. “I’m watching it grow higher and higher and higher, like a big bubble coming out of the Sound.”

“We figured we were goners,” she added.

The couple debated where to protect themselves from the storm surge about to crash down on them, deciding the attic was too dangerous.

“It was like somebody took a pin and popped it,” Ms. LoScalzo said. “The water came down and splashed all over the house and then receded.”

They thought they escaped unscathed, but the water damage actually cracked their foundation and left the house, especially the first floor, filled with black mold.

They had to redo the first floor, which cost about $40,000 to prevent more black mold from growing, and also to make room for Mr. LoScalzo’s ill brother move in. They have continued to live in their home since the storm. But unbeknownst to them, the black mold had spread to the second floor as well.

“We just figured because it flooded down there, the downstairs was the only place that was damaged. We just had the downstairs treated,” Ms. LoScalzo said. “And then eventually it just kept growing.”

Mr. LoScalzo tried to treat it with bleach, but eventually admitted defeat.

He said that his home was declared over 50 percent damaged, which prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to require the home be elevated, or they would face massive increases in flood insurance. He has lived there for 33 years.

Six years since Superstorm Sandy hit Long Island, the LoScalzos are finally getting to rebuild their waterfront home, about 16 feet off the ground and placed on pilings. They received the last piece of approvals, a Chapter 219 Coastal Erosion Hazard Area permit from the Riverhead Planning Board, which voted to resolve the issue Aug. 2.

The Riverhead Building Department issued the building permit Aug. 9, according to Brad Hammond, chief building inspector.

Riverhead town assures that there will be no adverse environmental impacts.

“We really pride ourselves on getting these permits out quickly,” Mr. Hammond said.

Dealing with different government agencies took ages to work through, Mr. LoScalzo said, and they also had to change architects, which slowed their progress down tremendously.

“We thought [the whole process] was going to take six months,” Mr. LoScalzo said.

Walking through the second floor of their home, a visitor can see a window with rotting wood and black mold.

Despite the past six years of phone calls, emails, site visits and bureaucratic hassles, the couple is able to look on the bright side, because they are able to build their “together” house as this is a second marriage for each of them. Ms. LoScalzo lived in Shoreham before the couple moved in together 18 years ago, when they decided to sell her house and move into the Creek Road house.

“We’re second-time-arounders,” she said. “We changed little things like raising the ceilings, and redid the kitchen and stuff like that, but this will be our together house, the whole thing.”

In addition to the housing stress, Ms. LoScalzo developed breast cancer in 2016. Then, six months later, doctors found uterine cancer, and four months after that she developed skin cancer.

“I’m two years cancer free,” she said. “We got through the worst of it; this is nothing compared to that.”

They received a New York Rising grant through the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.

Construction will start in about two weeks to elevate the house. They are currently living in a trailer on their property. The LoScalzos are hopeful that they will be back in their house within a year’s time.

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Photo caption: Jim and Peggy LoScalzo outside their home on Creek Road in Wading River. (Rachel Siford photo)