BREEZY POINT, N.Y. -- The construction noises are almost constant at daytime in this coastal enclave six months after Hurricane Sandy, but for many residents whose homes were badly damaged, recovery is moving at a slow pace - or not at all.
Many of those displaced by the so-called superstorm say they are stuck in limbo, trying to raise money to pay for repairs or replace their homes while coming to grips with new, federal flood-zone maps that many fear will make it too costly for them to return.
"We're no better off than we were six months ago," said Kieran Burke, a fire marshal who lost his home to a massive fire that erupted at the height of the storm. " ... I'd like to have an idea when I can tell my wife our children can go home."
Burke's dilemma is not unique to hard-hit Breezy Point, where more than 75 percent of the homes were either consumed by fire or suffered flood damage.
Some 39,000 people in New Jersey remain displaced by the storm, Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday. The number of New Yorkers still out of their homes is unclear, though federal officials said 350 households in the affected region are still getting money for hotel or motel stays.
"We've just got the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of work that needs to be done," said Michael Byrne, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's senior official in New York state for the Sandy response and recovery.
Though people now have some resources to rebuild, he said, they "still have some tough questions to answer ... especially people that are in high-risk areas: 'How do I rebuild?' or 'Do I leave, do I seek a buyout?' So, there's still a lot of tough issues to be worked out."
While some neighbors are almost ready to move back home, others are still unsure how much of their property can be rebuilt following the storm.
Sandy blasted ashore on Oct. 29 near Brigantine, N.J., leaving more than at least 147 people dead in the Caribbean and the U.S., according to the National Hurricane Center. Nearly 74,000 homes and apartments in New York and New Jersey, where it made landfall on Oct. 29, sustained damage, according to FEMA.
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