To the Panettas, that translated into building higher, which also meant more money for flood insurance, even as they are discovering the insurance they had was insufficient to make them whole.
"That's the way they are -- you pay, pay, pay and then, you know, when it's time to pay back out, they don't do it. They're nickel-and-diming me for everything. And when I say everything I mean everything," Joe Panetta said as he pointed to a $1,000 front door that would be reimbursed at $252. The storm door was $360 but wasn't covered.
They had no insurance on the contents. Frustrated, Joe Panetta insisted the insurance company send an engineer and assess whether the home could be saved. The Panettas have been living in temporary housing with assistance from FEMA since Sandy hit. With engineering reports signaling structural compromises and mortgage payments and rent costs piling up, Joe Panetta pushed the insurance company and the city, which made the decision to demolish.
That left the Panettas standing outside this week in matching Broad Channel sweatshirts, a bright green shamrock stamped on the front like a team jersey. Ryan missed a precious school day because he wanted to be there when the house went down, something like sitting by an ailing patient in hospice care.
He waited all morning on his street, where the homes looked very much like the beach bungalows they had been for generations, housing the families of New York City's public employees, like the firefighters, paramedics and police officers whose union stickers and idling service vehicles line the streets.
Flags still fluttered from front doors and flowers bloomed in pots. But inside, many of the homes are mostly gutted and several were to come down that day.
The city contractors said they have 19 homes to tear down in the neighborhood because of Sandy -- the Panetta's was just number three. But neighbors gathered with the Panettas to show their support, which is why, the Panetta's said, they are still determined to rebuild -- right there.