By Joseph Kellard Long Beach Patch
Like other Long Beach real estate agents, Joe Sinnona drives around the Hurricane Sandy-battered city at night in search of lights to get a pulse on the number of residents living in their homes since the October storm displaced many.
More than half of the beach town’s residents are residing elsewhere, he concludes.
“About 60 percent of the people who live in Long Beach are still displaced,” said Sinnona, an associate broker at Verdeschi Realty in the West End. “You know that they are not there because the houses are dark. And that’s what’s scary.”
Other realtors put the percentage not much higher or lower, depending on the neighborhood. Karen Adamo, a broker with Petrey Realty on East Park Avenue, believes that no more than 40 percent of residents have returned to their homes in the West End and West Holme.
“In the West End there are a number [of] bungalows but there are enough two-story homes that I kind of feel like there are people living in the second floor, but in the first-floor apartments, probably not,” Adamo said.
Adamo’s speculation is based partly on her conversations with friends who live in the West End, some of whom estimate that 50 percent of their neighbors are back home. But she believes the Walks and the Canals probably have more vacancies.
“In the Walks and a lot of one-story homes, ranches and bungalows, maybe a third of the people are back,” she said.
Adamo lives in the Canals, where on two adjacent streets there are 28 homes but families are only living in about seven of them. “All the ranches on these two streets are empty,” she observed.
Most of the tenants in the beachside highrises are probably back, Adamo said, except for a few buildings that are still out of operation, including one on Shore Road and two on West Broadway.
Joe Ponte, a broker with Douglas Elliman on West Park Avenue, takes note of the number of cars parked on the streets during his travels throughout the city. “I only saw five, six or seven cars parked on one block when normally parking would be to capacity in the evening,” he said of a street in the Canals on Saturday.
Ponte agrees that no more than 50 percent of city residents are home. He noted that most of the ranches in the East End, especially those that neighbor the still vacant Long Beach Medical Center, are vacant themselves.
“It seems like most of the ranches are still unoccupied,” Ponte said.
While the U.S. Census Bureau lists the population in Long Beach at more than 33,000 in 2011, Sinnona believes that 50,000 is a more accurate number, one that swells to at least 15,000 more during the summer months.
Sinnona was among the displaced after Sandy. His barrier island home was flooded and he and his family moved to Astoria for 33 days before their return. He believes it will be months before the picture on displacement will come into sharper focus.
“I think we need the spring and summer to determine how many people actually will come back,” Sinnona said. “I think it will take at least a year until they come back stronger.”
The Long Beach Police Department on Monday did not return a [sic] two calls seeking information and updates on policing in the storm-battered city.