No. 1 Top Story of the Year: Flood ravages Horton Avenue

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The flooding on Horton Avenue during the rainstorm in March.

Last March, days after a major storm flooded the streets of Horton and Osborn avenues in Riverhead, at least a half dozen homes were still a foot under water, waterlogged cars sat in driveways and the area took on the smell of a stagnant bay in August.
Eight months later, at least a half dozen families are still displaced and are coming to accept that they will likely never return to their homes.

The flooding of Horton Avenue brought to light how efforts to protect the low-lying neighborhood ­— which included moving 27 homes to higher ground about 30 years ago — have fallen short.

Making matters worse, many of the victims in the working class neighborhood live on fixed incomes and did not have flood insurance. Flood victim and social worker Linda Hobson took on the role of community activist and advocate, helping her neighbors get back on their feet when she herself was still displaced. Ms. Hobson has been pushing elected officials to come up with a long-term solution to the problem of persistent flooding in the area.

Riverhead Town and Suffolk County have submitted a joint application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to purchase the properties and turn the area into swampland. In the meantime, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is in talks with Long Island Home Builders Care, the charitable branch of the Long Island Builders Institute, to provide at least five affordable homes on county-owned land.

But the disaster spurred an outpouring from Riverhead residents, young and old. The community rallied around the flood victims, donating money and supplies. Riverhead High School junior Drew Achillich raised more than $4,000 selling Horton Avenue T-shirts, Riverhead Toyota owner Ted Lucki provided a new car for one victim at well below market value and the Melville-based engineering firm H2M donated $25,000 to the flood fund. Still, more help is needed.

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