Two Brooklyn nursing homes were preparing to open their doors again, nearly half a year after Superstorm Sandy shuttered them.

“We went through these hard times, but just like the neighborhood, we’ve come back,” says Michael Schrieber, executive director of the Shoreview Nursing Home and the Sea Crest Health Care Center.

At Shoreview, in the Brighton Beach neighborhood, staff were a mere fire panel away from opening. Sea Crest, near Coney Island, would likely be ready by April, Schrieber says.

iStock_000004337210XSmall.jpgLike many in the long term care profession who suffered under Sandy’s wrath, Schrieber says he’s proud that he and his staff were able to survive the challenge and come back.

“Everyone has been really superb throughout all of this,” he says.

But—also like many in the profession along the Eastern seaboard—the costs have been appalling. Some 100 residents from Sea Crest and Shoreview have died since the late October storm.

“It takes such a toll on these individuals who have this pretty standard, quiet life,” Schrieber says.

“And then this storm comes and they’re seeing things they haven’t seen and they’re in a place they don’t know, and it really upsets that stability.”

The buildings were gutted, Schrieber says. And the costs are still mounting.

“It has cost probably—and we’re not done yet because we don’t know what’s coming next, and we have all sorts of legal bills pending—but it probably has cost $10-$12 million,” he says.

But—adding insult to injury—the homes’ insurance company refused to cover employee costs, Schrieber says. Some 800 employees, including many who have worked at the homes for more than four decades, were laid off, Schrieber says.

“That, I think, was one of the biggest heartbreaks,” he says.
If anything else, though, it also steeled Schrieber and the staff, he says. “Getting that denial letter, that kind of solidified it for us,” he says.
“We were going to be able to get back up and running. We took personal loans and whatever we could because we felt an obligation to get back up and running.”

Schrieber says he’s hopeful that all the laid-off employees will be brought back.

For now, though, the focus is on getting the doors open. Staff and residents are counting the minutes, Schrieber says.

“I think, more than anything else, everyone’s excited to get back home,” he says. “We’re getting there.”