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Hundreds of homes destroyed by Sandy to be demolished

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New Jersey officials say nearly 72,000 homes were damaged from Hurricane Sandy and Vice President Joe Biden visited the Garden State Sunday to assess the severity of destruction. 

Biden toured Seaside Heights, which was the hardest hit, and visited Hoboken where severe flooding the Hudson River caused extensive damage. As the Vice President was looking at homes that might have to be demolished in New Jersey, the NYC Department of Buildings was doing the same, where hundreds of homes on Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island may have to be torn down. 

Nearly three weeks after Superstorm Sandy hit the area, the cleanup process continues and some homeowners will get to rebuild – but others are trying to save what they can of their belongings before their homes are demolished. 

"To rebuild them would cost more," said homeowner Michael Harben. "You just got to demolish them and start over again... they're just too far gone." 

The piles of debris and muddy streets are not the major challenge in the Ocean Breeze section of Staten Island's South Shore – it's trying the mold setting in. Homeowners say it's a race against time trying to save their houses from even further damage. 

"You got to get it all eradicated before you close up the house, otherwise it will just come back," said Harben. 

Those spending their weekend clearing out soggy debris are the lucky ones. Their homes were issued permits by the Department of Buildings. That allows for cleanouts and repairs, but houses with the red tags are targeted for demolition. 

The DOB says at least 200 are so dangerous they must be razed. They're struggling with how to reach and notify owners who are now living with family and friends.  

Not everyone is pleased with the inspection process.

 "The people doing the inspection, they have to come around and really look at the houses," said homeowner Joe Barillo. "We got marked as ‘red.' We have not structure damage and we're calling the DOB to come back down to re-evaluate the structure." 

The National Guard lent support to volunteers working in the Rockaways and the volunteers are important in Staten Island too where many say they can only rely on themselves and those lending a hand. 

One house, on a block where two people died, was swept off its foundation into the street and is scheduled for demolition. No one's arguing that, but it doesn't make it easier. 

"They have to rip it apart, take it apart and all my stuff is still inside -- but I can't get it out … so I'm stuck," said Don Clarkin, a resident whose home was ruined. 

The City Department of Buildings says it will have a better idea of the number of homes on Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens that need to be demolished by next week. They're still trying to assess the damage and reach the displaced homeowners.

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