The Jamesport Fire Department is receiving nearly $25,000 in federal funding to purchase of new gear for firefighters. (more…)
The Jamesport Fire Department is receiving nearly $25,000 in federal funding to purchase of new gear for firefighters. (more…)
As part of an effort to remain eligible for federal emergency mitigation funding, the county is asking residents to fill out a survey which explores locals’ knowledge of natural disaster issues.
The Suffolk County Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee is offering the 21-question survey, the results of which will be used to “coordinate activities to reduce the risk of injury or property damage in the future.”
Funding available in part from offering the survey, according to Southold Town’s website, will be used for beach re-nourishment, elevating structures, and offering backup power for schools and critical facilities.
Nearly a year after superstorm Sandy swept across the North Fork, knocking down trees, taking out power lines and flooding downtown Riverhead under several feet of storm surge, Riverhead Town is still waiting on about $750,000 in federal reimbursement funds it requested to cover related repair costs.
“We have received money, but not the lion’s share,” said Police Chief David Hegermiller, the town’s liaison to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Chief Hegermiller said the town applied for more than $1 million in funding from FEMA to pay for repairs and minor improvements to mitigate future storm damage. But as of last week, the town has received only about 25 percent of those reimbursement funds.
Until a couple of months ago, he said, the town hadn’t received any funding from FEMA.
Chief Hegermiller believes the sheer amount of damage caused by Sandy across the U.S. is partially to blame for the delay in getting FEMA funding approval.
“This was just a major storm,” he said. “The paperwork is just drowning them.”
The complexity of the FEMA funding approval process may also be contributing to the delay. Municipalities that apply for FEMA relief don’t receive the funds directly from FEMA, but through the New York State Office of Emergency Management — to which FEMA gives the money. Applicants have to file project worksheets — detailed folders describing the exact cost and reason for the request — with state officials, who review the project worksheets themselves before sending them on to FEMA for a second review.
Click here to read our past Superstorm Sandy coverage.
Often, the state will return a worksheet asking for clarifications.
“I don’t want to tell you how many times I went down to Iron Pier to look at the concrete that was out of kilter,” Chief Hegermiller said. “All that stuff takes time.”
The town has completed most of the 20 project worksheets it plans to fi le with FEMA. Consultants from the state are now working in the police department basement to review the final worksheets for approval, town offi cials said. “We’re not the only ones in this position,” said town fi nancial administrator Bill Rothaar.
Most of the money used during Sandy cleanup came from budget lines set up for employee overtime and contingencies, meaning no money was taken from the general fund in 2012, he said.
But “a couple” of Sandy-related problems that cropped up this year had to be paid for using general funds because FEMA approval was taking too long, Mr. Rothaar said.
“We weren’t getting approvals and the board was making decisions that this needed to be done,” he said.
The delays, in turn, have also slowed down other town functions and departments. The town’s audit, for example, could have been fi nished about a month earlier had the FEMA funding been in the town’s coffers.
The town has also applied for several state hazard mitigation project grants to help bolster the its defenses against future disasters, Chief Hegermiller said.
One of those applications would secure $6.5 million to prevent storm-water from getting into the town’s sewer system, while another roughly $8.5 million proposal would move the sewer district’s Defriest pump station downtown to elevate it out of the fl ood plain, he said.
Another proposal asks for $350,000 to pay for a new generator. But Chief Hegermiller thinks the grants will become “very competitive.” Only $200 million has been made available for the mitigation grants across the entire state.
“This isn’t a slam dunk,” he said. “There’s a lot of hurdles to go through.”
Meanwhile, town officials say that a plan to install a series of plastic walls to prevent storm surges from flooding downtown is still in the planning phases.
A Utah-based company presented the “Muscle Wall” to Town Board members in April. The 6-by-4-foot sections of plastic wall would be placed together to keep floodwaters from reaching downtown’s businesses, as occurred during Sandy.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the town will seek federal and county grant money to pay for the walls.
“We don’t have any money to buy it right now but I was hoping to use the hazard mitigation money FEMA and the county were putting on the table,” Ms. Giglio said.
A plan for Riverhead Town to use federal grant money to install flood-prevention measures on Horton Avenue has stalled after a new engineering report forced the price of the project to jump nearly five times higher.
Now town officials say unless they can secure more grant funding, the drainage plan is dead in the water.
“I think the [Town] Board is not going to be able to go forward with the second phase,” said Supervisor Sean Walter. “The money just isn’t there. We can’t print money like the federal government.”
The original proposal for $600,000 worth of drainage installation was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through a reimbursement grant in October 2011, more than a year after torrential rains flooded Horton Avenue, forcing out more than a dozen families whose homes were damaged by the waters.
But a new report discovered by the town’s engineering department has revealed that the amount of land that drains into the Horton Avenue area is nearly double what was originally estimated. That drove the price up to $2.9 million, town officials said.
Town engineer Drew Dillingham said a report filed by a consulting firm in 1979 shows the acreage that feeds into the watershed was “significantly higher” than the 700 acres he originally estimated.
Mr. Dillingham checked the area again and found that the acreage was closer to 1,200.
“Everything ends up there, or in the vicinity,” he said. “What that means is, you’ve got a lot more water coming to your design than you initially anticipated.”
Mr. Dillingham said he was rushed on the initial study because of tight FEMA deadlines.
“This was a slam-together, fast-estimate job,” he said. “Everything was in crisis mode.”
The original plan called for shallow channels called swales to be dug north of Reeves Avenue in a farm field, he said. But because about twice as much water flows into the area near Horton Avenue, the new design calls for moving the swales by clearing a wooded area east of Horton Avenue and replacing it with sand trenches, digging out a nearby dry pond seven feet down to groundwater and creating a man-made wetland that would catch the rainwater.
Out of the $2.9 million cost of the new project, about $2.3 million would pay for labor to remove the wooded area, with the remaining $600,000 set aside for materials and plantings, Mr. Dillingham said.
Mr. Dillingham said that because the town was forced to update the plan and increase the price, FEMA would now demand the town put more of its own money into the project.
He said Police Chief David Hegermiller, who is the town’s FEMA liaison, is trying to find other ways to fund the project.
“We are in fact looking at other grants to get this done,” he said, adding that Chief Hegermiller is also considering building a sump in the area, a cheaper alternative to the current $2.9 million proposal. Mr. Dillingham said the sump would provide more “more bang for your buck,” but he was unsure if FEMA places restrictions on what type of solutions the town could use for that area.
The man-made wetlands management project was part of a larger $3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that let the town buy back homes from the flood victims at pre-flood values and demolish the houses.
Though the wetlands project has stalled and may be abandoned, Mr. Walter said the primary goal of the project was to get residents out of the potential flood zone.
“We moved the people out of harms way,” he said. “At this point, if it were to flood, no houses would be underwater.”
Former Horton Avenue resident Linda Hobson, who became an advocate for the flood victims after the 2010 storm and worked with politicians to get the grant approved, said she’s concerned by the way the street looks now that the homes have been demolished.
“There are still residents living up there and I’m not sure they’re going to want to live there, with what it looks like right now,” she said. “You dug out some houses and it looks like a big void.”
But she said that she is “very content” with the outcome for her and her fellow flood victims, one of whom recently closed on a new house in Center Moriches paid for by the funds she received by selling her damaged house back to the town.
“I am elated that it’s over and that I’m getting my life back together … The most important part of it was done, and that was the part that concerned people and housing,” Ms. Hobson said. “We’ll just have to move on from here.”
Aquebogue resident Cecily Jaffe is finally regaining some sense of normalcy. She returned to her house three weeks ago, but is stilling trying to make it feel like home.
“I just got my bed two days ago,” she said.
Hurricane Sandy caused $100,000 worth of damage to her Harbor Road home. Floodwaters also swept away half of her belongings, including furniture, family photos and other items she said could never be replaced. Ms. Jaffe, who owns Cecily’s Love Lane Gallery in Mattituck, is now in the process of rebuilding her life in the cottage she’s called home for decades.
Like many homeowners with insurance, Ms. Jaffe did not receive federal grant money for reconstruction. She was only eligible to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money for temporary housing. In the interim, Ms. Jaffe was forced to wait weeks for her insurance check, causing construction delays. She moved five times to different area hotels and apartments before work was completed on her home.
“I’m still living as if I have to move tomorrow,” she said.
North Fork Sandy victims received a low amount of federal aid in comparison to other areas in Suffolk County. According to the FEMA, 564 households in Riverhead Town received $111,000 in federal aid, for an average of $197 per affected household. In Southold Town, 451 households received $366,000 from FEMA, or $811 on average per household. In comparison, Lindenhurst’s 4,000 eligible homeowners received more than $22 million, averaging out to $5,500 per household.
In all, more than $73.5 million in FEMA funding was provided to homeowners in Suffolk County to mitigate storm damage. Less than one percent of that was awarded to the North Fork, according to FEMA figures.
FEMA aid was awarded on a case-by-case basis, said FEMA regional director for Suffolk County, John Mills. The amount awarded to individual homeowners varied according to the severity of the damage and whether the homeowner had flood insurance, he said. No aid is provided for a person’s second home.
A spokesman for Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said Mr. Bishop’s office has been inundated with calls from homeowners who have been struggling to pay household bills since Sandy, with many requesting assistance with mortgage modifications or forbearance, which is an agreement between a borrower and lender that delays foreclosure
Greenport resident Jean Eckhardt’s Pipes Cove area home needed $15,000 in repairs after wind damaged the roof and floodwaters poured into the basement.
“I was the first person in line when I heard FEMA officials were going to be at Town Hall,” she said. “They only gave me a little.”
Ms. Eckhardt, who did not have flood insurance, received $1,500 in federal aid.
Her homeowner’s insurance covered some of the expenses, but she needed to pay for the majority of the reconstruction herself, she said.
“I had to eat most of it,” Ms. Eckhardt said. “I was hoping for more, but I am grateful for what I got.”
Sandy victims now face another costly consequence of the storm. Many North Folk homeowners will need to raise their houses — or face rising flood insurance premiums.
FEMA now requires homeowners who receive federal funding to rebuild their homes in accordance to the National Flood Insurance Program.
“There are so many laws coming out that people are not being made aware of,” said Flanders resident Dhonna Goodale.
Ms. Goodale, her husband and two young children were displaced for three months after the storm. The family received no FEMA assistance, footing the bill for home repairs before finally receiving an insurance check six weeks ago, she said.
“There were fish swimming in our basement,” she said of the family’s experience during Sandy. “Now, during high tide the water floods our driveway.”
The Goodales are now wondering what to do next at the 135-acre estate.
“Should we raise the house? Should we move it? We don’t have a clue what do right now,” she said. “We need answers [from the federal government].”
Flanders resident Sandra Cirincione is in the process of raising her house in the Bayview Pines neighborhood without any FEMA assistance.
Seven inches of floodwater poured into her first floor during Sandy, she said.
“No one told me I needed to raise my home,” Ms. Cirincione said. “I decided to do it anyway. I never want to go through this again. You learn a few things when things like this happen.”
Flood insurance covered much of her home’s interior reconstruction, but that work has come to a halt until the raising work is completed.
She’s living at a friend’s house in Westhampton and hoping to return to Flanders by mid-summer.
Mr. Bishop’s office is working to inform homeowners about programs available for raising their homes. The office has a full-time caseworker to help those affected by Sandy to access relief and benefits. Anyone in need of such assistance can call (631) 289-6500.
To the Editor:
In response to concerns raised online in the News-Review’s coverage of Wednesday’s Muscle Wall demonstration, the Summerwind Square building was engineered, as per the current state Department of Environmental Conservation flood map, so that the building would be raised to an elevation at which it didn’t flood during Hurricane Sandy or the other storms and high tides we have experienced.
I contacted Muscle Wall after the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Suffolk County came to a Town Board work session and said we should start planning for future storm events.
I contacted Muscle Wall due to the flooding of town-owned critical infrastructure, such as sewer and water facilities, and highways.
We should also strive to protect of our historical buildings, such as those at the East End Arts campus, as well as the investment in revitalization of downtown for the small businesses that were catastrophically affected by Sandy and had to close their doors for long periods of time. (Private property owners have received discounts on insurance premiums, according to Muscle Wall.)
Sandy has raised the bar for catastrophic events. County, state and federal funding will be available for planned mitigation. We as a town should be ready to capture the funding when it is available!
Muscle Wall is FEMA approved, however, we would send out for an RFP to ensure the best practical solution and the protection of the town.
councilperson, Riverhead Town Board
North Fork business owners and others impacted by Hurricane Sandy have just one week left to secure a disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The deadline to apply for the 30-year loans of up to $2 million is March 29, SBA officials said.
“The loans can serve as bridge money for business owners fighting it out with their insurance companies,” said SBA spokesman John Oliver Frederick.
The loans are not limited to people whose businesses suffered physical damage. Economic injury loans are available to those who saw a decline in business as a direct result of the storm and the deadline for those loans is June 30. Mr. Frederick has been making his way around the North Fork this week, speaking with farm and vineyard owners who suffered both physical and economic damages.
“I’ve had vineyard owners telling me business is down 25, 30 percent this winter,” he said. “An economic injury loan can help mitigate that.”
Interest rates on the loans for small businesses are between 4 and 6 percent, and as low as 3 percent for nonprofits.
The SBA also offers home disaster loans of up to $200,000 for homeowners or renters who had to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate or personal property. Interest rates on the home disaster loans range from 1.7 to 3.4 percent.
More than $1.2 billion in federal disaster assistance was approved for Sandy victims in New York, including $61 million dedicated for Suffolk County, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Of the seven counties receiving disaster aid, Suffolk was awarded the fifth most. Nassau County topped the list at $269 million, FEMA officials said.
North Fork residents and business owners interested in applying for a loan can do so online at sba.gov. For more information call (800) 659-2955. To meet with an SBA representative, business recovery centers have been set up at Islip Town Hall and Copiague Public Library.
Riverhead Town officials are hoping to rebuild part of the Long Island Sound beach in Wading River using sand dredged from Wading River Creek.
The Town Board on Tuesday is expected to approve a resolution transferring $10,000 from Federal Emergency Management Agency aid to hire a contractor to survey the current conditions in the creek and to determine the cost of the project. The town hopes to be reimbursed by FEMA for the entire cost of the project.
Superstorm Sandy left most of the beaches along Long Island Sound with far less sand than they previously had, and some of the homes along Creek Road in Wading River are now much closer to the water than they used to be.
“We have to find sand somewhere to try and protect some of those houses and we’re hoping some of it is still in that creek,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “The creek didn’t really fill in during Sandy, but it is filling in now. It’s the only place I can think of where we are going to get some sand that’s not going to cost millions of dollars.
“And to the extent we can put it up on the beach and protect some of these houses, we’ll do it. But we’re not going to be able to protect them all.”
The cost of pumping sand from an offshore site could be in the millions, officials have said.
Mr. Walter raised this issue with state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joseph Martens earlier this year at a Long Island Association breakfast, and was told the agency would look into it.
While the town’s efforts to dredge Wading River Creek in the past have been hampered by environmental regulations aimed at protecting nesting piping plovers and winter flounder, Mr. Walter says the town is seeking to do the dredging and beach restoration during the normal environmental windows when dredging is permitted.
The town will need DEC permission to modify its dredging permit to allow for the beach restoration, according to a DEC spokesperson.
“DEC issued a permit for maintenance dredging of Wading River Creek to the Town of Riverhead in 2004 which expires in February of 2014,” said DEC spokesperson Aphrodite Montalvo. “DEC received a request for a permit-modification following Hurricane Sandy from the town and is currently reviewing the request.