07/13/13 8:00am
07/13/2013 8:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | An excavator clears debris during demolitions on Horton Avenue last fall.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | An excavator clears debris during Horton Avenue demolitions last fall.

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.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A plan to prevent this section of Horton Avenue from flooding has been put on hold, town officials said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A plan to prevent this section of Horton Avenue from flooding has been put on hold.

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.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | It took more than a week for flood waters on Horton Avenue to subside last spring. About a dozen houses were ruined.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | It took more than a week for flood waters on Horton Avenue to subside after the 2010 storm. About a dozen houses were ruined.

“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.”

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05/02/13 12:00pm
05/02/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Eastern Concrete workers prepare Sandra Ciricione’s Oaks Avenue home in Flanders for a new foundation Friday.

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.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Cecily Jaffe hangs a print by North Fork artist Rob White from her Love Lane Gallery in Mattituck.

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.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Cecily Jaffe moved back to her Sandy-ravaged Aquebogue home just two weeks ago.

“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.

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04/12/13 5:00pm
04/12/2013 5:00 PM
Riverhead Muscle Wall

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A Muscle Wall on display Wednesday afternoon in downtown Riverhead.

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.

Jodi Giglio

councilperson, Riverhead Town Board

03/19/13 3:00pm
03/19/2013 3:00 PM

TROY GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Rabbit Lane in East Marion was among the streets hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy on the North Fork.

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.

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02/04/13 5:51pm
02/04/2013 5:51 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Depleted beach along Creek Road in Wading River.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Depleted beach along Creek Road in Wading River.

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.

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12/23/12 12:00pm
12/23/2012 12:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | One of the large FEMA-funded trucks at the town’s refuse and recyling center in Cutchogue collects storm debris for disposal in Brookhaven.

Just in time for Christmas, Riverhead and Southold towns have received a sizable gift from Uncle Sam.The many tons of tree limbs, tree trunks and other debris left behind by Hurricane Sandy no longer sit in huge piles, thanks to Suffolk County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency .

Smooth and speedy coordination among the town, county and federal governments resulted in the removal of 60,000 cubic yards of debris from the North Fork by way of tandem trucks at no cost to local taxpayers, said Jim Bunchuck, Southold’s solid waste coordinator.

“It was really perfect,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “This was all part of FEMA’s aid to the town. We didn’t even have to provide a payloader or anything to get the debris into the trucks because the trucks had their own great big shovels to load themselves.”

The trucks, which belong to a Missouri company, were contracted to take storm debris to the Brookhaven landfill, where FEMA has staged incinerators to burn the debris.

“We didn’t initially feel we would need help with the brush because we have our own compost area, but the amount of debris that came in ended up being overwhelmingly large,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “We processed a year’s worth of debris just in the month of November and we still have a lot of processed wood chips leftover from Irene.”

Although Southold Town has room to store the debris at the Cutchogue waste transfer station, Mr. Bunchuck said processing it would have taken a year.

“Normally brush can’t be burned, but because of the emergency declaration, burning it up in Brookhaven is allowed,” he said. “That’s saved us a big headache and allowed us to keep on top of the situation. It’s been a great benefit.”

Jack Naylor, director of utilities in Greenport Village , said Southold learned help was available from Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson.

Mr. Woodson said his crews calculated that 20,000 cubic tons of debris was trucked away from Riverhead Town alone.

“We had meetings with the county recovery team in Yaphank every day after the storm and they were the ones who initially gave us the choice to get our debris either ground up or trucked out to Brookhaven to be burned,” Mr. Woodson said. “I chose to have it trucked out, which took about three weeks.”

Just as the company finished in Riverhead, Mr. Bunchuck said he contacted Mr. Woodson to learn if Southold Town could benefit from their services.

“The trucks mobilized within 24 hours of being contacted,” Mr. Bunchuck said.

Mr. Naylor said he had a similar experience with the contractors, who arrived within hours of being contacted.

“I called at 9:30 a.m. on Friday and they were here at 12:30,” Mr. Naylor said. “They were here Friday, Saturday and Sunday and now they’re done. We saved a ton of money. It hasn’t cost us a dime.”

He said after the trucks completed their work in Greenport, they headed off to remove debris in Huntington.

“It’s been one of those things, like, serendipity,” Mr. Naylor said. “Someone made a call to Riverhead, then we found out and started making calls, too. It’s just been great coordination between the towns and the county.”

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11/27/12 1:13pm
11/27/2012 1:13 PM
Hurricane Sandy, FEMA, Flanders, Southampton Town

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Several houses on Bay Avenue and other areas in Flanders suffered major damage during superstorm Sandy.

Officials from Southampton Town and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have scheduled a meeting for Thursday to hear from residents in the Flanders area who suffered serious damage to their homes during superstorm Sandy.

The meeting will be held on Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at the David Crohan Community Center on Flanders Road.

Town officials say the goal of the meeting is to better understand the needs of the community, what obstacles residents are encountering, and how FEMA and local officials can assist.

Southampton Town officials scheduled to attend including Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the planning and development administrator, Kyle Collins, the director of municipal works, Christine Fetten, and chief building inspector Michael Benincase.

Sandy damaged a number of houses in Flanders, some that have since been rendered not safe to live in, particularly in low lying areas such as Bay Avenue or the streets off the north part of Long Neck Boulevard, and adjacent streets.

Richard Naso, a member of the town’s citizen advisory committee for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, has been trying to get word out about the meeting.

“You may have spoken to a FEMA representative already, but most people are unaware of other programs to help assist us,” he said. “It’s to your benefit to learn as much as possible and to receive the help, support and assistance from the Town of Southampton and FEMA.”

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11/04/12 3:54pm
11/04/2012 3:54 PM

JOHN DUNN FILE PHOTO | Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday federal aid is coming to local municipalities.

Local federal elected officials announced Sunday FEMA aid is now available to fund repairs for public infrastructures and facilities damaged this week by Hurricane Sandy.

According to a press released issued by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office,  FEMA administrator Craig Fugate agreed to expand President Barack Obama’s major disaster declaration to include all categories of public assistance for the counties affected by the storm, including: roads, bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and equipment, utilities, parks, recreational facilities, beaches and more.

Initially, municipalities on Long Island and in New York City and the Hudson Valley were only eligible to receive federal aid for some public services like debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Residents in those areas have been eligible for individual assistance from FEMA.

Mr. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand applauded FEMA’s recent decision.

“It is critical that FEMA has heeded our call and expanded the major disaster declaration to include full public assistance for communities throughout storm-ravaged New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley,” Mr. Schumer said.

“Providing this full range of federal disaster assistance is essential for repairs to everything from sewages facilities, to parklands, to the hundreds of roads and bridges that were destroyed in the storm, and I am pleased that our communities can know that the federal government will be there to help as they continue their response and recovery efforts.”

Ms. Gillibrand agreed and described the damage she has seen as “devastating.”

“The federal government has a responsibility to stand with these families every step of the way to help them recover and rebuild better than ever before,” she said. “The Obama administration promised no red-tape, and this is another example of the president backing up that commitment.”

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