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Photographer documents uneven Sandy recovery in hardest-hit neighborhoods

November 2, 2014 at 3:30 PM EDT
This week marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. The recovery in New York has been very uneven in some of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods. Photographer Nathan Kensinger documented this in a series of photo essays. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

HARI SREENIVASAN: This week marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. And here in New York City, the recovery has been very uneven.

It’s something that photographer Nathan Kensiger has documented in a series of photo essays for the website, Curbed.

In this waterfront community in southern Queens, flooding caused a fire that burned more than 100 homes.

NATHAN KENSINGER: It was kind of a wasteland, it had really just burned out a huge section of this neighborhood. All around you, you were surrounded just by the smoking remains of these homes that had been completely destroyed by the storm.

HARI SREENIVASAN: This is what it looked like a year ago. And this is what it looks like today.

NATHAN KENSINGER: It was a shock to see how much they had rebuilt, it was pretty amazing to see. It had gone from being completely burned out and nothing there, to row upon row of houses.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But several other shore communities here in Staten Island have gone in the opposite direction. Right after the storm, Kensinger met Jean Laurie.

NATHAN KENSINGER: Her house had been very damaged by the storm, but she had set up out front of her home this whole station to help give people food and water and warm clothes. She really wanted to bring her neighborhood back, even though Sandy had just happened.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But two years later, her home site is nothing but this patch of grass and dirt. The state offered her and other homeowners the pre-storm value of their home, plus a 5-10 percent incentive with the idea that the area would be converted to a natural buffer zone against future storms.

Jean Laurie accepted the offer.

Kensinger has documented that while some New Yorkers who live by the shore have moved away from the water that did them such harm, not everyone has.

NATHAN KENSINGER: Geographically, they are all right there on the water, and they’re going to flood again. And so some of them have chosen to come back and face that. And some of them, you know, the decision was like, we can’t live here anymore. We know we’re going to flood soon and we don’t want to face that again.