More than two years after a series of spring storms flooded a low-lying neighborhood on Horton Avenue and forced residents from their homes, Riverhead Town has purchased most of the flood victims’ damaged houses and are set to begin demolitions, town officials said.
Using a nearly $3 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, the town has purchased seven damaged properties from Horton Avenue homeowners at pre-flood values, said Police Chief David Hegermiller, who has served as the town’s liaison for the grant.
The grant allows the town to buy the properties from the residents, then demolish the houses and use the open space for drainage purposes to prevent future flooding.
Those who rented houses during the flood were not covered under the grant, nor were the valuables lost to the rising waters.
The federal grant carried with it a Sept. 30 deadline for the demolition to be completed, but the town was able to get an extension to Nov. 30, officials said.
With just three houses left to purchase, the town will begin the demolition soon by disconnecting utilities and tearing the structures down, Mr. Hegermiller said.
“We’ve had meetings with the county and they’ve said they’re on board [for the demolitions],” he said.
Linda Hobson, a resident of Horton Avenue at the time of the flood who became an outspoken advocate for victims, said she was happy to see homeowners get compensated through the acquisition process.
“I’m glad that things are coming to completion and I’m glad that our community has come together to make this a benefit for the people,” she said. “I’m hearing positive things from the residents that things are being done and everyone appears to be in agreement.”
Ms. Hobson, who is one of two Horton Avenue residents who have not yet found a new home, said she’s going to focus on herself after two years of advocacy for the victims.
“I didn’t realize the toll it took,” she said of the efforts to compensate those who lost their houses.
Ms. Hobson plans to go back to school to pursue certification in senior citizen care, though she adds that she will stay active in the community in some way.
“I thank God every day that we’re going to be able to demolish that area and make it somewhere safe,” she said.