A tiny Florida beach town is rebuilding after a hurricane. Is it becoming a preserve of the rich?
The waves lap along a shoreline littered with jagged fragments of concrete and rebar. A half-kilometer-long beach has become an abandoned stretch of sand, pocked with trash, battered by the wind and littered with piles of debris.
In the midst of this rubble is a tiny community of houses and cottages, several of which used to be part of a resort complex. Some had been severely damaged, others were not. The sea is still coming in, but the tide is receding.
For the residents of Surfside, the story of their rebuilding is about to begin.
They are being asked to leave an area devastated by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and return to what has been described as paradise: the town of Surfside, located in a tiny beachside town in southwestern Florida.
The new residents will be able to enjoy the beach, and the hotel itself, and they will get to keep their houses, restaurants and apartments. All will be replaced — either destroyed or rebuilt in their own neighborhood.
They will pay for their own rebuilding, and the rebuilding will be done in the usual method used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has been rebuilding everything from Florida to New York and elsewhere.
But as the residents of Surfside start to understand what they are getting themselves into, they are finding that their return to Florida means everything they had hoped: a break from Puerto Rico, a taste more freedom and an escape from the constant pressure of their families.
It will be something other than living in cramped, temporary housing.
But the town’s decision to be generous and open their rebuilt homes comes with a downside.
What will happen to the town’s residents when their rebuilt homes stand empty for years? Will they be able to afford the repairs to their homes? Will they be able to pay property taxes? What happens to a small tax base if the town has no permanent residents? The only thing worse than a “Ghost Town” is living