Town to buy back Horton Avenue houses damaged in flood

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Horton Avenue flood victim turned community activist Linda Hobson (right) and her fellow Horton Avenue flood victims during a press conference on the block last year.

The Riverhead Town Board approved a resolution at its meeting Tuesday night to buy back several Horton Avenue houses that were damaged during a four-day series of storms in 2010 that put much of the low-lying neighborhood underwater, forcing residents from their homes.

Most of the affected homeowners have made agreements to sell their properties to Riverhead Town in exchange for federal grant money, a key step in the process toward assisting those who lost everything during the flood.

“It’s a good feeling to be at the end of this,” said Linda Hobson, a Horton Avenue resident and advocate for the victims of the flood.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant will allow the town to pay storm victims nearly $3 million in exchange for their houses.

The grant permits the town to buy the properties from the residents at pre-flood values, then demolish them and use the open space for drainage purposes. Horton Avenue residents will then be able to use the money to buy or rent elsewhere.

In March, the displaced residents and government officials were waiting for an overdue batch of appraisals so the process could continue. At the time, officials said the town and county would have to “redouble [its] efforts” to meet federal deadlines, and Congressman Tim Bishop even wrote a letter urging officials to pick up the pace.

The appraiser, Maurice Perkins, eventually filed the remaining appraisals.

“Things have picked up drastically since then,” Ms. Hobson said. “Everybody’s been on board.”

Ms. Hobson said almost all the homeowners have found other places to move into, making a proposed affordable housing development to be built with help from Suffolk County that residents previously pushed for unnecessary.

“Because there’s only two residents who need dwellings, at this point we don’t feel its a necessity to build the development in Riverhead,” she said.

Ms. Hobson is one of the two residents who have yet to find a new place to live.

Read more about the efforts to assist Horton Avenue residents and what will happen next in this week’s News-Review.