Left in the Wake: Sandy’s Effects on New York City Neighborhoods

by Neil Reilly, CHPC Policy Analyst

Eighteen months after Superstorm Sandy most small homeowners are still waiting for assistance repairing or rebuilding their homes. Houses stand vacant—whether partially renovated or abandoned—as the New York City government struggles to get its recovery program in motion. As reflected in the testimony of residents before a recent City Council oversight hearing, the lack of help to rebuild their homes is destroying families, job opportunities, and once-thriving neighborhoods.

To better examine the lingering effects of the storm CHPC analyzed notice of foreclosure filings (lis pendens) and below market sales (arm’s length sales at prices below 50% of the borough median) for the year prior to the storm and compared it to the year following the storm. Our study looked at these data Citywide, in the three boroughs most affected (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island), and in the ZIP codes that correspond to the areas along the shoreline most affected by the storm. As with the storm itself, Staten Island has been hardest hit by both foreclosures and below market sales. Staten Island neighborhoods affected by Superstorm Sandy experienced a 61% jump in the rate of below-market home sales in the year following the storm. This finding stands out among other alarming trends that reflect the economic displacement facing residents in storm-affected areas of New York City. The same areas of Staten Island also experienced a 50% increase in foreclosure filings, comparing the year after the storm to the year before.

These trends were especially strong across the storm-affected parts of Staten Island and Queens, though not prevalent in Brooklyn. Comparing statistics specifically for the flood-ravaged areas versus borough-wide shows that Sandy damage is driving the overall trends for Staten Island and Queens.

Our research examined the rates of foreclosure notice filings (known as lis pendens) by ZIP code in the year before the storm and the year after. Citywide, there was a 24% increase in foreclosure notices. In the residential areas affected by the storm, this increase was 35%. The following chart demonstrates pre-to-post-Sandy comparisons for the city as a whole; Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island overall; and the storm-affected areas within those three boroughs.

To illustrate what these numbers mean at the ground level in the ZIP code that covers Neponsit, Belle Harbor, and Rockaway Park on the Rockaway peninsula, there were 25 lis pendens filed in the year preceding Sandy and 37 in the year after—an increase of 48%. The ZIP code corresponding to the Staten Island neighborhoods of New Dorp, Oakwood, and Midland Beach, notice of mortgage foreclosures jumped from 120 in the year before Sandy to 183 in the year after—a 53% increase.

Added to the foreclosure crunch is the fact that homes are being sold at prices below 50% of the median sales price for their boroughs. In fact, our research shows that these below-market sales have been concentrated in Sandy-affected neighborhoods in Staten Island and Queens. Across Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island altogether there was a 32% decline in below-market sales, but in the flood-affected ZIP codes of those boroughs there was a 2% increase. Staten Island alone saw a 33% increase in below-market sales, while in the storm-affected areas of the borough the increase was 61%. In the 10306 ZIP code in particular, the rate of these sales increased by 120%.

Queens saw a borough-wide decrease in below-market sales of 41%, yet the Sandy-affected ZIP codes saw a 4% increase. Brooklyn bucked this trend with a 33% decline in below-market sales from before to after Sandy and a decline within flood-affected ZIPs that kept pace with the borough-wide decrease. The table below shows the comparison of pre- and post-Sandy rates of below sales for Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as their storm-affected ZIP codes.

CHPC will be monitoring the progress of the City’s Build it Back program. To see some of our recommendations about Sandy recovery, see our recent publication, Steering the New Course.