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11/10/13 8:00am
11/10/2013 8:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This Flanders home was recently elevated. One East End home moving company said it’s receiving about 100 inquiries a day about raising or moving homes as a result of hurricane Sandy.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy sent storm tides of more than six feet surging across the Peconic Bay shoreline and the South Shore, Guy Davis’ construction company has been busy.

People want their homes lifted out of what are now being designated federal flood plains. Not only that, they want them lifted fast.

“These are folks that were devastated,” Mr. Davis said. “They had three, four, five feet of water in their houses.”

Before the storm, Davis Construction House & Building Movers — based in Westhampton Beach — would get about 10 to 15 calls a day from people wanting their houses raised or moved to other parts of a property or needing their foundations strengthened, Mr. Davis said.

But since the storm hit, the company has been getting about 100 calls a day.

The company’s workload has swelled to as many as 40 projects at a time. In the next few weeks, Mr. Davis’ construction company will begin work on two bayfront properties on Scallop Lane in Jamesport.

“They got flooded out pretty good over there,” he said.

Lifting a home takes roughly six to eight weeks, once the necessary building permits have been obtained.

The first step is a site visit, during which Mr. Davis and his employees survey the property and figure out the best way to redesign the house. The homeowner also consults with an architect, who drafts plans for what the house will look like post-elevation, Mr. Davis said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The Jamesport beach house at left is slated to be elevated in the next few weeks.

Some customers choose to raise the foundation, while others choose to have their houses rest on wooden pilings driven into the existing foundation.

Next, workers disconnect all electric, plumbing and gas lines. Then, steel beams 10 to 12 inches thick are slid beneath the house in grid pattern, placed strategically under load-bearing points to prevent the structure from cracking, Mr. Davis said.

Specialized hydraulic jacks then begin to lift the house at a rate of about one foot per hour, all the while maintaining the same speed — which is critical to preventing damage.

“It can go eight or nine feet [up] in a day’s time,” Mr. Davis said. Most homeowners are choosing to raise their homes above the flood plain level recently redesignated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Now it’s critical to meet FEMA elevations to get out of the flood zone and get the best discounts on your [federal flood] insurance,” he said.

Houses are always lifted higher than final elevations to allow workers access underneath.

The foundation on an elevated house is then raised to the structure’s new height, with pockets left open in the foundation. The steel beams used to lift the house then fit into the empty spaces when the house is lowered. After the house is set on its new foundation, the beams are slid out from under it and the empty spaces in the foundation are patched up.

The process for using wood pilings as supports is a bit different. Instead of lifting up the house and then building up the foundation beneath it, workers use a “railroad track” of steel rollers to roll the house off its footprint, Mr. Davis said.

The wooden pilings are then driven into the ground and the house is rolled back to its original location, lifted and placed atop the new supports.

No house is too big to lift, Mr. Davis said. The company is currently elevating a 18,000-square-foot mansion on Middle Lane in Southampton.

“Size doesn’t matter; we can raise and move any type of house,” he said.

The process may take a while, but raising a house can offer peace of mind to those who have suffered from flood damage.

“They want their house high and dry so they never have to go through that again,” Mr. Davis said.

[email protected]

06/29/13 1:00pm
06/29/2013 1:00 PM
EPCAL Sandy cars

TIM GANNON PHOTO | EPCAL’s western runway no longer covered with storm-damaged cars.

The runways at the Enterprise Park at Calverton are now car-free for the first time since mid-November, when Riverhead Town inked a deal to allow thousands of storm-damaged cars to be stored on the EPCAL runways until insurance companies could sell them to recyclers.

The cars were total-loss cars that had been flooded out during Sandy and were now owned by insurance companies, which contracted with auto auction companies that auctioned them off to licensed recyclers, such as Illinois-based Insurance Auto Auctions, which had a deal with the town.

While all this was bad news for the owners of those cars, and generated some controversy when thousands of vehicles began showing up for storage at EPCAL, the lease arrangements were good news for Riverhead Town’s finances.

“I’d say we made about $1.8 million all together,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Friday.

The town had stood to make about $2.8 million if IAA had sought the two three-month extensions allowed in the contract.

The most recent contract with IAA is set to expire at the end of this month, and the last of the cars, which were stored on the western runway at EPCAL are gone already.

The company initially entered into an agreement with the town on Nov. 15 to lease 52 acres at the unused western runway for $3,200 per acre per month for six months.

In addition to extending that deal to the end of June for a smaller area, the town also, along the way, leased out the eastern runway, a move that involved a private deal with IAA and Skydive Long Island in which Skydive, the only business using that runway, was compensated by IAA for the temporary shut down of the business.

In addition to the town leases, land owned by developer Jan Burman and land owned by Mavilla Foods, both at EPCAL, also were leased to companies storing Sandy-damaged cars.

Those areas are now car-free as well.

Unlike the town and Mavila deals, which involved storing the cars on concrete, the deal between Mr. Burman and Copart USA saw the cars stored on grass, which resulted in violations being issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Although Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, had criticized the town for storing the cars on the runways and taxiways at EPCAL, the DEC said it had no objection to storing cars on pavement.

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05/24/13 7:59am
05/24/2013 7:59 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | All the debris from Hurricane Sandy appears to be cleared from Iron Pier Beach.

Our often unsung town workers have worked hard since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the town’s bay and Long Island Sound coastlines last fall — be it through clearing debris or repairing infrastructure — to get the beaches ready for the summer season. The town also dredged and dumped sand to build up beaches and protect houses in Wading River.

The workers should be commended for their effort. Mother Nature has also done her part in helping restore the shore, especially at Reeves Beach, which was virtually nonexistent this winter. But all this hard work and good fortune could be wasted if town recreation department head Ray Coyne moves ahead with plans to leave town beaches without lifeguards for Memorial Day weekend and four more weekends in June.

The News-Review toured the local coastline last week, and the beaches look great. Yet Mr. Coyne tells us he wants to hold off on filling lifeguard chairs until the end of June, because he wants “a little more time to clean up.”

He also mentioned that the move would save the town money. With temperatures already reaching well into the 70s, however, the time is now to make our beaches safe for families.

Aside from obvious safety concerns of having beachgoers swimming at their own risk in June, it’s important to remember that residents from Riverhead, the North Fork and across Long Island put up with the high cost of living here in part because of our proximity to water.

There’s no reason to shave off any part of the summer season unless it’s absolutely necessary. Saving a few bucks is not a good reason.

05/14/13 10:00am
05/14/2013 10:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Stony Brook earlier this year.

Dear Fellow New Yorker,

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Governor established the Moreland Commission to investigate utility companies’ storm preparation and response efforts, including the Long Island Power Authority. The Commission found that in addition to LIPA’s failure to perform during the storm, the organization’s structural dysfunction was responsible for poor customer service, high rates for customers, a large debt load, and an insufficient and antiquated infrastructure.

That’s why Governor Cuomo proposed legislation today to transform the utility service on Long Island into one that puts ratepayers first and focuses on ensuring better performance and accountability for customers. The Governor’s proposal privatizes the operations of the utility system, creating a structure that prioritizes customer service and emergency response, reduces the cost of LIPA’s debt, and puts in place real government oversight.

The people of Long Island deserve more value for the rates they pay, which is why the new utility company is seeking to freeze rates for three years. This will be welcome relief for a region still in recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

Click here to read more about the Governor’s detailed proposal for a new Long Island utility company.

Together, we are making government work for the people once again.


The Office of the Governor

05/07/13 11:00am
05/07/2013 11:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Rabbit Lane in East Marion following Superstorm Sandy.

State officials will be available Wednesday to assist victims of Superstorm Sandy looking to apply for recovery and aid that the federal government approved last week.

Representatives with the New York State Department of Financial Services’ Mobile Command Center will provide free help to homeowners and business owners at Southold Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We fought hard for the federal aid Long Island deserves to recover from this devastating storm, and I urge those affected to apply for the support you need for your home or business,” Congressman Tim Bishop said in a release. “Attending this session is not a requirement to access aid, however it will be especially useful for senior citizens and others who are not as comfortable using computer-based forms.”

Those impacted by the storm may also apply for recovery assistance online using this link.

[email protected]

05/05/13 5:00pm
05/05/2013 5:00 PM
EPCAL cars from Sandy

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sandy cars parked on the western runway at EPCAL.

Riverhead Town’s agreement to lease runway space at Enterprise Park at Calverton to a company storing flood-damaged cars from Hurricane Sandy may be scaled down soon.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Insurance Auto Auctions, the Illinois-based company that has been leasing town-owned runways at EPCAL to store flood-damaged cars, has asked that the town allow it to lease a lesser acreage and for a shorter time period than the three-month extension option that the contract calls for.

The alternative, Mr. Walter said, would be that IAA leaves altogether, and the town doesn’t make any additional money off the deal.

IAA inked a lease with the town Nov. 15 for 52 acres at the site’s western runway, which is inactive, for car storage. The company later added cars to 52 acres on the eastern runway through a Dec. 4 agreement with the town and the Skydive Long Island company, which had been using the runway and agreed to halt operations for a time to make room for the cars.

A third agreement on Dec. 27 allowed IAA to utilize about 7.8 acres of town-owned taxiways that run alongside the eastern runway that weren’t included in the second lease.

In each of the agreements, the town received $3,200 per acre per month from IAA. Vehicles have since been removed from the eastern runways and taxiway, but remain on the western runway.

Under the terms of the agreement for the western runway, IAA leased the property for six months, after which the company had an option for up to two three -month extensions, which would have totaled a full year.

But with the agreement due to expire May 15, IAA representatives have asked that rather than agree to a three-month extension of the full 50 acres, they instead lease just 15 agrees until the end of June, Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Walter said company officials will not agree to the full 50 acres, as per the original contract, because there aren’t that many cars left.

The proposed contract revision would enable the town to receive at least some additional revenue, he said.

“We’ve made $1.7 million from IAA so far,” Mr. Walter said Friday.

The exact amount of what the town would receive under the new proposal has not been determined, since IAA officials are debating leasing 10 acres instead of 15, and the end date has not been set, he said.

Had they stayed on the site for a full year at 50 acres, the town stood to make about $2.7 million.

The revised agreement would need to be approved by the full Town Board, Mr. Walter said, adding that the other board members have not yet reviewed the revised deal.

All the cars on the runway were deemed total loss cars that have been acquired by insurance companies, according to IAA. Those companies hire IAA, which holds weekly online auctions to sell off the flood-damaged cars to licensed auto recyclers or salvage shops.

Officials said more than 200,000 cars in the New York Metropolitan area were destroyed by Sandy floodwaters on Oct. 29, and flood-damaged cars were being stored at large parking lots all over Long Island following the storm by IAA and other auto auction companies.

The town paid a 5 percent broker fee on the money it received from IAA to Corporate Realty Services of Hauppauge, according to town records.

[email protected]

04/19/13 8:00am
04/19/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Summertime at Iron Pier Beach in Northville. The calm bay and Sound beaches are a big attraction for vacationing families with small children, says Islip resident David Cogliano.

Longtime Islip resident Dave Cogliano and his family, who have summered on Fire Island for the past seven years, now have their sights set on the North Fork for a season of beach bathing and barbecues.

As of now, the family is looking for houses in Mattituck or Jamesport.

“Rather than figuring out which homes [on Fire Island] have mold or damage, we decided to rent on the North Fork,” Mr. Cogliano said. “It’s beautiful. It’s different. I want to check it out.”

The Coglianos are not alone.

With Hurricane Sandy having devastated popular summer spots in the tri-state area, like Fire Island and several Jersey Shore communities, those in the local tourism and hospitality industries are preparing for what could be one of the busiest summer seasons on record. The North Fork’s infrastructure was largely unaffected by Sandy, in comparison to other locations, and the pricier Hamptons aren’t an option for most middle-income families eager to spend a week, a month or longer away from home.

By April, most Jersey Shore and Fire Island rentals have been leased, but ongoing reconstruction and a sharp drop in the number of available rentals has taken its toll.

Bob Hilton, executive director of the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates that more than 50 percent of rentals were lost during Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast Oct. 29. Mr. Hilton said some businesses have since been trying to make the best of a bad situation, but he freely admits certain pockets of the Jersey Shore cannot reopen as they had before the storm.

The situation is similar on Fire Island, where the Army Corps of Engineers just began removing the first piles of debris last month. Many homes on the barrier island will need to be demolished. In those that withstood the storm, concerns about mold or other structural damage are preventing some homeowners from renting out their properties at all this season, said Grace Corradino, a broker with Fire Island Living Real Estate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baiting Hollow farmer Jeff Rottkamp turning over a field for early sweet corn. North Fork tourism officials frequently highlight the region’s farms, shops and waterways.

Other issues, like spotty Internet and cellphone service and the decimation of dunes and beaches, are also deterring visitors, she said.

Meanwhile, at Colony Real Estate in Jamesport, the phones have been “ringing off the hook” with potential seasonal renters, said agent Dolores Peterson.

The company has already rented 10 summer homes this year, Ms. Peterson said, and business is not slowing down.

“It’s picked up quite a bit since last year,” she said. “People always ask how we made out during the hurricane. I tell them to come check it out. We were very lucky.”

Greenport Village Business Improvement District director Peter Clarke expects a tourism surge in his waterfront village this year.

“One of the things we tried to do before Christmas was let people know we are open for business, we have power and all of our stores aren’t destroyed,” Mr. Clarke said.

The village has a host of plans to prepare for the summer months. The BID is developing maps and signage to outline the business district for visitors, he said.

Village officials are currently working with the BID to develop a way to manage summer parking, according Mayor David Nyce. In March 2012, the board voted against installing parking meters downtown. Mr. Clarke said the BID plans to use additional signage to point visitors to the village’s ample municipal parking lots behind Front Street stores and on Adams Street.

It seems they’re right to be preparing ahead of time for more visitors than in years past.

“Most summer weekends at this point are already sold out,” Greenporter Inn owner Deborah River Pittorino said. “Greenport is busier than ever.”

Other area hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead are also reporting a record number of bookings. Sales director Meghan Mathesen said the hotel is almost sold out seven days a week from May through October. “Summer has always been busy, but there is a high demand for hotel rooms this year,” she said.

Last year, direct tourist spending generated $9.2 million, according to the North Fork Promotion Council.

Tourism is critical to the viability of the North Fork’s small business community and agricultural operations, according to council president Joan Bischoff.

With a substantial number of tourism-dependent seasonal jobs, visitor traffic is crucial for local employment and area economy, Mr. Bischoff said.

To support the small businesses and the tourism industry in general, the North Fork Promotion Council — whose members include the North Fork and Mattituck chambers of commerce — has recently partnered with East End Tourism Alliance to undertake collaborative marketing projects, he said. To help manage vehicle traffic in the coming months and beyond, for example, the groups plan to test the viability of a shuttle network, which could increase tourism without burdening local roadways, infrastructure and natural assets.

Mr. Cogliano said it’s the North Fork’s natural beauty that attracted him to the area, but its family-friendly atmosphere makes it ideal for his two young children. He said the waterways provide a lot of options for fun, and that boating, fishing and lazy beach days will all be on the agenda.

After a fall season slowed by Sandy and other storms, local business owners are welcoming the expected increase in tourism this summer.

“We need a really great summer for businesses to recover what they lost due to Sandy,” said North Fork realtor Donielle Cardinale, a member of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce. Storm damage caused some Mattituck businesses to close for extended periods for reconstruction, she said, and in some cases, inventory was destroyed due to wind and prolonged power outages.

Some business owners incorporated Sandy-related repairs with re-branding efforts as well as construction upgrades.

Ms. Cardinale called the North Fork a “warm” and welcoming place for visitors, and expressed confidence that any newcomers will enjoy their stays here.

“The entire community is like ‘Cheers’! Everyone is friendly,” she said. “It’s going to be an exciting summer.”

[email protected]

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