By MADDY VITALE
Residents at an Ocean City condominium complex had mixed emotions about leaving their homes. They were sad to leave, but hopeful that when they return in six months, they will find their units will be lifted far above the floodwaters.
The project at the flood-prone Ocean Aire condos at 43rd Street and West Avenue in the south end of town is slated to begin in November and be completed by April.
The city was awarded a $3 million federal grant to elevate the seven-building condo complex.
W.A. Building Movers & Contractors Inc., a New Jersey-based company hired by Ocean Aire, will pick up each building off the ground and then will erect a cinder block foundation approximately seven feet high underneath.
Condo owners had to be out by 5 p.m. on Monday as preparations get underway for the project.
“It was very emotional. A lot of residents left in the last two days teary-eyed,” explained Steve Sinibaldi, vice president of the Ocean Aire condominium association.
He pushed for the elevation to the 52-unit complex over the years.
The Sinibaldis live on the first floor and in some storms the water has risen to the first floor windows.
Stormwater spills out of the adjacent marshlands and bay and leaves the Ocean Aire condos vulnerable to chronic flooding.
Eileen Sinibaldi, Steve’s wife, said that this past weekend’s weather brought with it the main reason why the couple want their condo elevated.
“So, this weekend there was flooding,” Eileen recalled. “We didn’t even have a lot of rain. It really reassured us that this was the right path.”
The couple, who have lived in the condominium complex since 2014, also have a home in Havertown, Pa.
On Monday, they were ready to leave their summer retreat and return to it when it is elevated.
“We decided to take out what we wanted and open up the refrigerators and freezer,” Eileen said. “The builder reassured us that we didn’t need to take pictures. We covered and cleaned everything.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to fund the entire $3 million project and will reimburse the city for the cost. The city approved the funding upfront to enable the project to get started.
Steve Sinibaldi said that before the work can be done, permits have to be issued by the city.
“I feel assured that Ocean City wants to see this happen as much as we do,” he said.
He added that Mayor Jay Gillian, the city’s Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato and City Council President Bob Barr, who represents the Fourth Ward, which is the same ward as Ocean Aire, have been very supportive of the project.
“They have invested a lot of time into this project,” Sinibaldi said.
Sinibaldi also said he and the other condo owners are confident that the contractor, W.A. Building Movers & Contractors, will do an excellent job.
Jason Yarusi, vice president of W.A. Building Movers & Contractors, said in an interview Monday that he will have two crews working on the project with a total of about 25 workers.
Yarusi noted that he and his father, Wayne, and his brother, Ryan, have been in the elevation business for many years and have raised homes and properties throughout the Tri-State area, including locations in Ocean City.
He said his team is ready to elevate Ocean Aire condos.
“There are a number of tenants and owners of these 52 units in seven buildings. With the rising sea level here, they are continually exposed,” Yarusi said.
He continued, “Our goal is to raise these buildings to be FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) compliant. We will raise them up and reinforce them, add foundations and extend the stairs and all of the mechanicals. We are doing our best to make this as fluid as possible.”
The Sinibaldis say they are eager, as are the other residents in Ocean Aire condos, to be able to enjoy their property without the fear of constant flooding.
Eileen said it only took one time when Steve saw floodwaters rise to their first floor condo window to seek action and a remedy. After that time, he spoke out about the need to elevate the complex.
“Steve seeing it once was enough for him to react to it,” Eileen noted. “I feel like he fixed this forever for the rest of the residents.”