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Rockaway's Wave Seeks to Rebuild a Neighborhood, and a Newspaper

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Six weeks after Hurricane Sandy tore through the Rockaways, pouring five feet of seawater into Kevin Boyle's home, the part-time adjunct professor and one-time bar owner found himself rebuilding not just his house of 20 years but the peninsula's 120-year-old weekly newspaper and the community that depends on it.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy, with winds topping 95 miles per hour and waves reaching 40 feet, roared through The Wave 's offices on the first floor of a modest brick building on Rockaway Beach Boulevard about 400 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. Rooms were left thick with mud and sand. Desks and computers were hurtled to the floor and a sink torn from a wall.

In the months that followed, Boyle and publisher Susan Locke sought to revive The Wave , rounding up new computers, rebuilding its circulation base and creating a makeshift newsroom on a flood-proof floor above the old one. Since becoming editor in December, Boyle has been equal parts cheerleader, gadfly and scold for the sometimes-stumbling efforts of government agencies and business leaders to rebuild the Rockaways after the worst storm to ever hit New York's shoreline.

"We're an advocate, and I don't apologize for being an advocate," Boyle said in an interview in early October at the newspaper's cramped temporary office. "I don't like kicking a dog when it's down and the Rockaways right now are a dog, so I'm not about to kick it."

Before Sandy, The Wave was much like any typical community newspaper, reporting on local development, Church socials and high school sports. But when the hurricane hit, nearly everything on the narrow 11-mile peninsula changed, including its weekly paper.

Boyle edited The Wave for five years ending in 2000, departing when he said his writing "started to get stale." This time around has been different. The Wave post-Sandy has sought to help shape the Rockaways' recovery by reporting on sand replenishment and boardwalk rebuilding, the potential ramifications of rising flood insurance premiums and how government agencies are spending the millions of dollars earmarked for the area.

"The difference between then and now is night and day," says Boyle, his salt-and-pepper hair offset by the bright shorts and long sleeve t-shirt of a middle-aged beachcomber. "Back then, big news was a car crash. Now, it's life and death, if not death than certainly life changing stuff for so many people. It's exciting and it's confusing."

In those first few days after Sandy, homeowners and tenants struggled to get basic supplies, food and water. Much of the Rockaways' 5.5-mile long Depression-era boardwalk, the heart and soul of the community, had been ripped from its pylons. Mounds of sand seven feet high blocked driveways while entire houses were tugged from their foundations and wooden homes reduced to piles of sticks. Cars lay at crazy angles, many overturned. The Rockaways was in shambles, made worse by a lack of reliable information.