Weeks After Sandy, True Toll Coming to Light

Beach Houses Destroyed Along With Way of Life


By JTA

Published November 20, 2012.
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Kenny Vance’s multimillion-dollar beach house has stood proudly on the Long Island shore and weathered all manner of storms since 1916. Then came Sandy.

Vance, a 68-year-old musician who has lived in Belle Harbor, N.Y., for most of his life, was preparing to perform on a cruise ship when newscasters first warned of a major storm heading for the East Coast. But Vance had seen this movie before and knew the protocol. He boxed up his most precious belongings, rolled out the storm shutters and left.

From a ship docked in Puerto Rico, Vance watched superstorm Sandy destroy everything he owned.

“Once I saw the size of the storm, and heard the winds were coming from the south, I knew I was screwed,” Vance, who gained fame as the lead singer of the Planotones, told JTA. “The winds blew off the top of my house, and the rest of the structure basically crumbled. Everything is gone.”

Among his losses are countless pieces of precious memorabilia accumulated over the course of a nearly 50-year music career: his priceless collection of vintage guitars, a slot machine from the 1900s valued at $20,000 and a lamp that belonged to the late New Mexico artist Tony Price. Not the least of his worries, Vance is now homeless and living at a hotel on Staten Island.

“There’s just no way to get these things replaced, and I just redid my kitchen and bathrooms,” Vance said. “My grandkids would come stay here with me every summer; I’ve lost all that. And my feral cat I lived with for over fours years, she’s gone, too.”

Some three weeks after Sandy washed ashore, power has been largely restored in the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and, for most people, life has gradually returned to normal. But for some, normal has been forever redefined.

“The history of our temple is now just moldering pulp,” said Amy Cargman, president of the West End Temple in Neponsit, a neighborhood just west of Belle Harbor on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.


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