Oakwood Beach Buyouts

Staten Island, New York

Two years after superstorm Sandy devastated the south shore of Staten Island, the Fox Beach neighborhood worked to have most of the homes purchased by New York State, which tore them down and allowed the neighborhood to return to natural wetlands.

On the eastern shore of Staten Island, Oakwood Beach sits in a beautiful, yet precarious position. Facing Raritan Bay and located in a floodplain, the low-lying wetland continuously bears the brunt of intense storms. Over time, much of Staten Island’s development was built on filled wetlands that previously helped buffer the area from nature’s wrath. When Hurricane Sandy savaged the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, Oakwood Beach was forever changed: three people died, many homes flooded, other houses floated off foundations.

Joe Tirone was familiar with seasonal flooding and more than once had to repair his Oakwood Beach bungalow rental property. After Hurricane Sandy, he said no more. He couldn’t continue the cycle of flood-rebuild-repeat; moreover, the human toll the flood victims experienced was too much.

After meeting with a Federal Emergency Management Association representative regarding buyouts, Tirone and his neighbors formed Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee to explore best options for their community. The overwhelming consensus of the residents was to explore the state’s new buyout program which would demolish the structures and forbid future development, ultimately returning the seashore to its natural state and creating a storm buffer for inland residents.

Joe Tirone talks about the process of getting homes bought out.

They went directly to Governor Cuomo who announced four months after Hurricane Sandy that the Fox Beach area of Oakwood Beach would be the testing ground of the state’s new program. Since the Fox Beach properties were contiguous, the community was deemed an “enhanced area,” and all were eligible for a buyout at 100% of their pre-storm value. As well, the state’s buyout program offered financial incentives to relocate residents within the New York City area. Members of the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee credit their success to a number of factors, but community engagement, education, and trust were the cohesive elements that made it work.

Coverage in Slate magazine.

Now, where often-flooded homes once sat, natural flood and coastal buffers exist, as do hiking trails, walkways, and wildlife observation sites.

“There are some places that Mother Nature owns,” Gov. Cuomo said. “She may only come to visit every two years or three years or four years. But when she comes to visit, she reclaims the site.”

Written by Kerri McLean


Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas (georgetownclimate.org)

This NYC Realtor’s Most Memorable Deal? Selling His Flood-Ravaged Neighborhood to the Government | NRDC

Leaving the Sea: Staten Islanders Experiment with Managed Retreat | Urban Omnibus

Planning and Implementing Buyout Programs Slides – 2019 CDBG-DR Clinic (hudexchange.info)

Joe Tirone

Website/social media

Climate impacts

Elevation or relocation of homes
Nature-based solutions

501c3 tax deductible

Accepting donations

Scroll to Top