Debris is seen at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways section of the Queens borough of New York. City officials say an unprecedented operation to bulldoze unsafe, storm-damaged homes is under way.

New York - Hundreds of homes declared safety hazards after superstorm Sandy are going to be razed in New York City, a vast operation deemed “unprecedented” by the mayor's office.

Two hundred houses in the New York boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island that were hardest hit by last month's mammoth confluence of a hurricane and a seasonal “nor'easter” storm are to be demolished in the coming weeks or months.

That's on top of the 200 or so that were already set to be bulldozed after being completely or partially destroyed by wind, water or by storm-sparked fire.

New York City's Buildings Department must still issue a ruling on another 500 damaged structures, some of which could also meet the same fate, its director Robert LiMandri told the New York Times.

“We've never had this scale before,” LiMandri said in remarks published by the newspaper on Sunday.

“This is what New Yorkers have read about in many other places and have never seen, so it is definitely unprecedented.”

A decision on how to rebuild these devastated neighbourhoods has become another subject of intense debate.

Most of the houses that will be torn down are modest single- or two-family homes which in some instance have been passed down from generation to generation. Some are in poor condition and would not pass current building codes.

Moreover, many families fled ahead of the storm, and authorities have had trouble locating them to discuss plans for their battered homes.

“This is not easy, in this case, because of all these displaced people, but we're going to do the best we can, but we may have to move on it if we can't find them,” LiMandri said.

Meanwhile, in the beach side neighbourhood of Rockaway Beach, Queens, demolition has already begun.

AFP reporters last week saw bulldozers tear down an entire block at Rockaway Beach Boulevard and 120 Beach Street, where homes were badly damaged by a fire that broke out during the storm. - Sapa-AFP