$815M in Sandy aid slated for LI infrastructure improvements
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New York State committed $815 million Thursday to provide new equipment to prevent power outages, including "micro grids," and to harden bridges and sewage treatment plants on Long Island.
The appropriation of federal Sandy recovery aid is the first in an expected series of infrastructure improvements to be announced, with more likely in the coming days.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Long Island projects that would get money, during a conference call with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
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The $815 million will come from a variety of federal sources -- including the Federal Emergency Management Agency's hazard mitigation grant program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's community development block grants.
A formal announcement is expected next week for a second wave of the HUD funding, $2.097 billion, from which the state will draw for infrastructure projects, some of which have yet to be announced, officials said earlier in the week.
With the anniversary of Sandy approaching next week, on Oct. 29, Cuomo said the government response to the superstorm's devastation on Long Island is shifting from crisis response and a focus on homeowners who need assistance, to mitigation efforts before the next storm.
"Now we're getting to the infrastructure improvement phase," Cuomo said Thursday. "One of the points of the program is to make things better than they were."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that dispersal of disaster relief funding shows the federal government is "doing what it's supposed to do" after Sandy.
"This aid is critical, and there will be more on the way," Schumer said.
When Sandy came ashore, a larger than 9-foot wave washed over the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway, flooding the area, knocking out power and damaging equipment. With no way to process the sewage, it backed up into pipes, which ruptured in Baldwin and East Rockaway, sending untreated sewage into streets and homes.
Nassau County Department of Public Works spokesman Mike Martino said a bid award for the electrical upgrade for the Bay Park sewage treatment plant would likely come before the end of the year, and other upgrades, including odor control, were underway.
Suffolk's sewer treatment facility also will be getting funds to make it more resilient.
LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said the $50 million committed Thursday will be used by LIPA to pay down what ratepayers would have had to fund for a new computer system, managing outages throughout the system. LIPA trustees earlier this month, at the request of PSEG, the company that will take over management of Long Island's power grid in January, approved spending $30 million to pay for the system, which will be implemented over the next eight months.
Another $20 million will go to a trial program in which one community each in Nassau and Suffolk can create a "micro grid" that would store power from the wider electric grid.
Mangano thanked the governor for cooperating with local officials on the response to Sandy and identified the Bay Park improvements as his No. 1 priority.
"Today we move forward to build a stronger wastewater treatment plant," Mangano said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to clean up our environment."
Bellone also thanked Cuomo for addressing Suffolk's post-Sandy needs: "A year after the storm we have made significant progress," Bellone said. "We are not going to just rebuild, we're going to rebuild stronger and better."
With Emily Dooley
and Mark Harrington