TODAY   |  October 29, 2013

One year later, progress slow for Sandy-ravaged town

One year after Superstorm Sandy hit the shores of tragedy-stricken Belle Harbor, N.Y., progress for those who lost their homes has been slow as they battle insurers for full payouts. Little federal and city aid has made it to the town. Matt Lauer reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> but first, sandy one year later. the super storm reeked havoc. we head to queens, a community that had more than it's share of heart break and we head to find out how the people there are recovering.

>> it was a night of terror. the storm surge , shoulder deep flood water and fire engulfing whole blocks.

>> at the heart of this close knit community was this place. the harbor light pub. and for 30 years people would gather here and they would celebrate graduations and birthdays and engagements. they would come here to mourn the loss of loved ones. the people that owned it lost their own son charles back on 9/11. so when sandy came through here and the fires raged this place was completely destroyed. a year later, that's all there is.

>> their story is all too familiar here.

>> it's like a war zone .

>> reporter: she fled her bell harbor home that night. she lost everything.

>> people are going to look at this and say a year later, no progress.

>> well, to me, it was still very hard to make up your mind what you're going to do and i just hope that i can make it on my finances because i'm retired.

>> i remember walking down the street the morning after the storm here and seeing the remains of your home and the harbor light and so many other homes and i remembered asking outloud how much more could this neighborhood take.

>> yeah. pretty rough.

>> how much more can it take?

>> i don't know. pretty tough. the plane going down. that was horrible. losing those people. 9/11, we lost so many firemen.

>> what's it like out here today? a year later after that storm?

>> the people are still here and they're building. so that's a plus.

>> reporter: homes are just now starting to go up but progress has been slow. many families are battling insurance companies over pay outs that cover only a fraction of rebuilding costs. and though there is federal and city aid, little has made it's way here. last year, we found david sharp searching through what was left of his childhood home.

>> we were standing right here where your mom's house was, it was right there.

>> that's right. the house i grew up in.

>> when you called for the insurance company to say we want to rebuild, what was the experience like?

>> it's still an ongoing experience because they kept saying no. they said you're not covered.

>> reporter: david's mom says what they salvaged is a treasure. just a few family photos and one sacred keepsake. it had blessed her home for 34 years.

>> they said to me what is it that we can help you retrieve? and i said there's one thing. it's under the smashed destroyed part of the home on the door and if you looked at it there was no possible way to get in and they said i don't know if we can risk our lives for this and i said it would mean the world to me and they sent a crew inside through the garage and a crew outside and very gingerly and delicately lifted the broken roof and pain stakenly got to it. took it off and it was like we struck gold.

>> reporter: she says she hopes to put that on the door of her new home one day. she is trying to come up with a plan. just like the beach front community down the road, breezy point which is facing similar struggles.

>> not a single building here escaped damage. 100 homes went to the ground. only a handful of homes have been rebuilt. the people here have had huge problems with insurance companies , city permits, and the perfect storm of red tape . despite the challenges, there's an undeniable sense of hope here and a fierce determination for the people to return to their community. after more than three decades, hannah sweeney says she can't imagine calling anywhere else home.

>> you're 77 years young.

>> yeah.

>> i'll get there.

>> do you have the energy to rebuild.

>> yeah. i'll give it a try. if i can, if i can afford it, i'm