In 3 LI communities, residents work to recover from Sandy

Flooding and debris caused by the surge from Flooding and debris caused by the surge from superstorm Sandy remain in Mastic Beach Village. (Oct. 31, 2012) Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard

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As Long Islanders work through the devastation left a week ago by superstorm Sandy, we look at what has happened to some of those communities in the path of the hurricane.

Freeport

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In Freeport, at the corner of St. Marks Avenue and Cedar Street, a 40-foot boat that washed into the street and blocked traffic was gone, but nearby, a collapsed house was slapped with a red Unsafe sticker.

Along the village's beloved Nautical Mile row of restaurants and bars, stores were shuttered, burned, collapsed, as workers buzzed around the area in utility trucks.

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And in neighborhoods, residents who still lacked power and heat were out in force, cleaning their battered properties and showing building and electrical inspectors the damage.

"People are working -- as soon as the water receded, everybody who has been here knew it. They started doing what they had to do," said Jose Bisono, a Nassau Avenue resident who remained in his flood-damaged, powerless home throughout the storm.

About 4,100 households in the village of about 43,000 residents lost power during the storm, which brought a string of other hardships -- at least three homes and two businesses burned; home heating oil spills mixed with water in flooded streets; and front lawns were piled high with discarded belongings.

But recovery had begun, said Sophia Johnson, a village spokeswoman.

Village officials said Saturday that power was restored in 23 percent of the area south of Atlantic Avenue, adding that north of Atlantic 95 percent had power. New estimates should be available soon, village officials said.

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Johnson said village sanitation workers are cleaning neighborhoods, and it showed -- lawns were visible on blocks that a week ago were covered in sodden furniture and clothing.

Some homes bore a red Unsafe sign placed by building inspectors, but many more had a green card, a symbol that the home's electrical wiring was safe, and that power could be restored.

But, Johnson said, "There are going to be some houses that are not going to be able to be restored."

Businesses were reopening scattershot around the village, where damage and flooding were much worse south of Atlantic Avenue.

At Freeport Beverage, in the village's south end, bagged ice, available at the store Monday for the first time since the storm, was a hot item, said owner Wayne Anderson. Elsewhere in the store, patron Byron Southard bemoaned the fate of Fiore Brothers fish market on the Nautical Mile, which burned down.

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"There go my clams," he said.

On some streets, homes appeared to be intact. On Nassau Avenue, a boarded-up, weather-beaten home sat next to a sign that read: "Block Protected By Smith & Wesson."

On East First Street, Steve Bassford surveyed the 2-foot-high flood line in his home's ground floor and felt fortunate. His neighbors on the other side of a canal had three boats, all longer than 28 feet, wash up on their property. He was about to deliver firewood to neighbors with no heat. "It's hell, man," he said.


Bayville

At lunchtime Monday Dolores Pascucci was being consoled by friends at Ralph's Pizza in Bayville: Floodwaters had risen through her basement to her living room. She was still without power.

By 5 p.m., standing by her home on Adams Street, the power came back on. "Wonderful," she said. Water remained in her basement, but her fuse box had been placed at a safe height after previous flooding.

Street by street, wire by wire, power slowly returned to this village tucked between the Sound and the waters of Oyster Bay, which flooded into some homes here a week ago.

Monday, more signs of normalcy returned as garbage collection resumed and the library reopened, offering heat and power. Many homes on higher ground got power back Saturday.

West Shore Road remained closed. But County Executive Edward Mangano said FEMA funds would go to the temporary reconstruction of the collapsed and undermined sections of the road, one of two main access routes to the community.

But normalcy would take longer to return, especially in low-lying areas, where homeowners spent the day removing waterlogged belongings from wrecked basements and ground-level floors.

On hard-hit First Avenue, Jean Marie Mimmo, 53, a part-time social worker whose husband lost his job on Wall Street in January, lost everything still in her basement storage and sitting room.

She and her family, including two teenage children, returned to the cold, dark house Thursday after evacuating during the storm to friends. Volunteers from Kentucky who were staying at a church in Oyster Bay worked steadily to empty her basement. "I feel so gifted," she said.

Nearby, on the corner of First Avenue and 16th Street, Erika Viscovich, 39, watched as friends she'd hired emptied, gutted and bleached her house's downstairs family room, bedroom and laundry room.

"Then we're going to rebuild," said Viscovich, who is staying with her husband and two young children at her in-laws'. "It's an amazing community and I will never leave."

One of the friends helping her was fish store owner Rich Sabatino. He suffered tens of thousands of dollars in damage, including his truck, which sank into a water-filled sinkhole near the village gas station.

Many residents praised the efforts of local work crews who cleared trees and debris. Sunday, the schools sponsored a free barbecue at the fire station and distributed donated clothes and blankets.

Many veterans of past floods were resigned and resilient. But losses and the costs were on many minds, including Pascucci's granddaughter Rachel Titus, 9. Her playroom was flooded. "I picked out the rug and I didn't want it to leave," she said. "It was a rainbow."


Mastic Beach

From the large picture windows in their living room on Locust Drive, Jim and Randee Flood have a stunning view of Narrows Bay lapping at the southern end of Mastic Beach.

"That's a million-dollar view," Jim Flood said Monday, sitting in his home after 2 feet of water had rushed in and destroyed most of the first floor.

"I've always said we bought a view, not a house."

A week after Hurricane Sandy battered the region and sent the waters of Narrows Bay coursing through the streets of their neighborhood, the Floods still have the view -- but are joining thousands of their neighbors in Mastic Beach in putting back together their homes and their lives.

A couple of blocks away, Bob Riley picked through the pieces of his house on Locust Drive. While his cottage didn't flood, bad luck came anyway -- a tree branch broke through his kitchen window during the storm. Rain filled his kitchen sink, cascading into the living room and soaking his carefully wrapped belongings.

"And now we got a nor'easter in a couple of days," he said. Reilly, who had been in the process of moving to Ronkonkoma before the storm hit last week, said he was done with Mastic Beach. "I'm out of here now," he said. "I'm here to salvage what I can."

For the estimated thousand homes below Neighborhood Road that Mayor Bill Biondi said suffered flooding from Narrows Bay, Biondi also said he has to balance the residents' desire to restore power immediately with preventing potential fire hazards caused by salt water on electric wires. "There's a lot of tension here today," Biondi acknowledged. "You feel for the people, but your hands are tied."

The area's community groups have mobilized. Dozens of people from the village's community and civic groups gathered Monday night at the Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Community Library to discuss how to coordinate grassroots efforts for the area.

"It's going to be a long haul, particularly for the folks in Mastic Beach," said Bob Vecchio of the William Floyd school board.

At St. Jude Catholic Church, donations of food and goods have poured in, said Deacon Ken Geoghan.

The storm has hit at a vulnerable moment for the village, he said. "People were already barely getting by, and this made them lose everything. The needs here are just overwhelming," he said.

Mastic Beach's community spirit has moved many. On Beaver Drive, neighbors came to check on Tiffanie Tantillo, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Tantillo, was returning from Afghanistan and came home Friday to a flooded garage and no power. "It was going from one war zone to another," Tantillo said.

"I'm proud of the neighborhood," said Rachel Saez, who had brought her three children to the town's nutrition center on Neighborhood Road, which was turned into a temporary village food center. "My whole family has gotten everything they need," she said.

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