NJ home, symbol of Sandy’s wrath, is razed
Structure that stood for perseverance now symbolizes new phase of rebuilding.
UNION BEACH, N.J. — For more than 150 years, the Princess Cottage withstood hurricanes and floods, nor’easters and major snowstorms.
On Friday, it took a bulldozer about 15 minutes to complete the demolition job that superstorm Sandy began in October.
“To see my home away from home, which became my home, destroyed like this — it’s hard to take, it’s just hard to take,” said Jonathan Zois, who had lived in the Front Street house for about six months before Sandy’s arrival.
The storm ripped out half of the home’s first floor, but, improbably, had left much of its second floor intact.
In the weeks after the storm, Zois’ father, Constantine Zois — who owns the house with his sister, Barbara Zois — dreamed of seeing the house rebuilt.
The family envisioned that a rehabilitation of the Princess Cottage — as Union Beach residents had called the house for decades — would serve as an important symbol of perseverance for a working class community devastated by Sandy.
“When I first saw the house after the storm, my impression was that it was going to have to come down,” Constantine Zois said. “I was hoping against hope that I was dead wrong.”
Rather than hope and rebuilding, the fate of the Princess Cottage appears to symbolize a new phase of Sandy’s aftermath in Union Beach: acceptance that many structures will have to be torn down.
Along Front Street, homes that until recently appeared to be standing out of sheer audacity are now piles of rubble. On Friday, bulldozers were active at several locations along the stretch, the creating clouds of dust whipped around by strong winds.
The owners of at least 50 properties in town already have agreed to sign off on seeing their structures demolished, of about 160 that likely need to come down, said Jennifer Maier, Union Beach’s administrator.
“There are a lot of tears in my office,” said Maier.
Much of the demolition work in Union Beach is being performed by Burners Without Borders, a group of volunteers from throughout the country. More information on the organization is available on its website, www.burners withoutborders.org.
Brenda Zimmerman, one of the group’s coordinators, said that while many Union Beach homeowners she has worked with are devastated to see their homes demolished, the decision has proved empowering for some.
“Now that the house really is gone, they get to move forward and start over,” said Zimmerman, who hugged several members of the Zois family after the work was largely complete. “Unfortunately, the houses are not coming back.”
Constantine and Jonathan Zois managed to salvage their home’s front door, which had a Christmas wreath attached. Together, they carried it off for safekeeping.
The family intends to build a new home on the site, which they have owned since 1994. While not necessarily a replica of the Princess Cottage, Constantine Zois the new home will feature a similar architectural style, but with modern amenities.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.