Schumer: Use Sandy grant to elevate homes

The nor'easter caused more flooding along South Bay The nor'easter caused more flooding along South Bay Street in Lindenhurst. (Nov. 8, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday that he would prefer homeowners rebuild their Sandy-damaged homes with flood-proofing measures like elevation instead of accepting a state buyout.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a breakfast meeting of New York City business groups that money approved by Congress for disaster relief will help residents rebuild. Federal Community Development Block Grants that can provide funding for elevating a home are included in the $60 billion Sandy disaster relief funding approved last month, he said.

"I saw firsthand that homes elevated a couple of feet fared much better in the storm," Schumer said at the Association for a Better New York and Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association breakfast in Battery Park City. "With CDBG we will give homeowners funding not only to rebuild but to raise their home at the same time."

Schumer said afterward that he didn't think many New York residents would leave their homes near waterways even if offered government buyouts.

"There are very few people, with the exception of a few small neighborhoods on Staten Island, who want to do that," Schumer said. "I would much rather see us rebuild in a way that protects us than abandon large parts of New York."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this month unveiled a home-purchase program that, if it wins federal approval, would provide as much as $400 million to buy properties damaged by the Oct. 29 superstorm. The land would be left undeveloped, according to the plan.

The governor's proposal also includes money to help residents rebuild and raise their homes for flood protection.

"We are proposing over one billion dollars for mitigation and rebuilding grants, pending federal approval," Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing said in an email Wednesday.

Long Islanders who have started the process of raising their homes above flood levels have said in interviews with Newsday that the cost is high -- more than $100,000 in some cases -- and obtaining government grant money can take years.

While the state is still drawing up its plan for spending community development block grant money, Schumer said the funds should be used to help home and business owners cover the gap between what the Federal Emergency Management Agency or insurance pays and the full cost of repairs, mold removal and home elevation. "It's much smarter to provide $140,000 versus $100,000 if it means elevating to protect against the next storm," Schumer said.

Schumer used the speech to give his support to a study of coastal hazard mitigation to be undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Sandy relief funding includes $20 million to study "all coastal protection possibilities."

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